Jamshed Ali, the caddie on the other side of the wall

Kolkata has always been a city of fi rsts and it is no surprise that the legacy of the sport of Golf in India had its inception here in the lawns of the Royal Calcutta Golf Course as early as 1829. Since then, it has come a long way with many young aspiring golfers coming up from different parts of the country. Considered to be a sport for the elite, golf is yet to break into the middle-class mainstream like cricket and football. The sheer lack of accessibility makes it diffi cult but not impossible for the likes of Sk Jamshed Ali who grew up in the neighbourhood adjacent to the club wall in Calcutta. Born on 4 May 1956, he began his career as a young caddie and soon became the country’s fi rst professional golfer at a time when playing golf required a considerable amount of investment and time, either of which was not easily available to Ali during his younger days. He was nine years old when he won the Eastern India title for juniors and had a string of successes in golf for over two decades. It is saddening that most of the credible sources of public information do not even have his name mentioned in the history of the sport.

Even to this day, there is a lack of professional expertise and knowledge within the Indian golf industry. Withstanding such dismal economic conditions Jamshed Ali went on to become one of the earliest golfers to win the coveted Arjuna award in 1975. He was at the top of his game in the 1970s and early 1980s by performing marvellously in almost all Indian tournaments. At a time when the game hardly generated enough income and was considered more of a leisure sport, Ali managed to play well in the fairways of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Jamshed Ali
His remarkable journey in Indian Golf took the form fi rst as a player and then as a trainer. As a player, he won the Dunlop Cup held at Calcutta, Delhi and Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1970. Four years later, he claimed the top spot at the Wills Cup in Bombay and a year after that travelled to Shillong and won the Carbon Open Championships. He won this title a second time in 1976. The same year he won the Kanpur Open held in Kanpur. In 1973, he represented India at the International in Singapore where he won the Silver Medal and a cash prize of fi ve hundred Rupees. During those days there were no organisations like The
Golf Foundation, a Registered Charitable Society which aims at the development of the under-privileged and young talented promising caddy golfers who like Jamshed Ali have immense diffi culty to play and
participate in tournaments.

In the late 1970s, Jamshed Ali landed a job with a private company which did not last long. He had even worked as a coach at the RCGC for a few years in order to sustain himself and keep playing as long as he could. His son, Amjad Ali, too had a promising start when he won the subjunior title at the Royal Calcutta Club and took part in various tournaments but had to give it up to look after the family and his ailing father.

The Arjuna awardee spent the last few years of his life fi ghting against oral cancer and had to appeal to various associations and people for contributions to pay for medical expenses. Despite all the honours
and awards, Ali had very little help from the government and had to rely on the contributions of individuals and members of the RCGC for his treatment. He passed away on 1 November 2005 survived by his wife, son and fi ve daughters after a gruelling battle against cancer at a private Jamshed Ali, the caddie on the other side of the wall hospital in Kolkata. Amjad Ali still caddies at the club for a meagre sum while hoping for an opportunity to resume playing. He remembers his father as an exceptional teacher and a guiding force who had an unrelenting passion for the sport but did not get the recognition he deserved. The sheer divide between the haves and the have-nots often becomes disturbingly real for many such young Jamsheds and Amjads who will be lost in the tide of time simply due to their lack of privilege.

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