Swimming Olympian & 3-time National Champion Rehan Poncha Wants To Excel In Golf
GDI: When did you start playing golf? What prompted you to take up golf so seriously after you left swimming?
RP: At the end of 2012, I was on an extended swim break as my mind and body needed the rest. But I was getting really restless! I began golf just to pass time at my father’s suggestion, but instead I fell in love with the game. Competition is in my blood after so many years and before I knew it, I found myself training to compete and wanting to excel here too!
GDI: How often do you play and practice nowadays? Who are the good players you practice with?
RP: I enjoy trying out new courses and play at courses across the world – wherever work and leisure take me. I practice mainly at the Poona Golf Club and the Willingdon Sports Club, sometimes at BPGC course in Mumbai and the Oxford course in Pune. Training through a week consists of 5 to 6 days of golf (6 to 8 hours a day) and three sessions in the gym as well.
GDI: Have you played in any tournaments? What’s your best-ever score?
RP: I’ve played a few corporate and club tournaments. I hope to play the amateur qualifiers next year. My best score at a tournament has been a 6-over-par.
GDI: You are already a swimming Olympian. What do you think of golf’s return as an Olympic sport?
RP: The Olympics are any professional athlete’s ultimate arena. I love the idea of golf being an Olympic Sport! On a personal level, it encourages a dream of someday being a double Olympian! On a broader level, I think this will inspire many, many, more young players to learn this sport and want to compete at that level someday. I also think it’s a sport that is suited for Indian bodies, we’re seeing Indian golfers do so well internationally, so as a country this is good news for us.
GDI: Many cricketers worldwide have embraced golf – from our batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar to South Africans Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers. What is it about golf that appeals to former champions from other sport?
RP: It’s not just cricketers – so many athletes across sport turn to golf. I think the longevity in golf is a big factor – people continue playing well into your 30s and 40s even professionally. So it’s something you could learn, and enjoy for several years even after retirement. And it’s a great sport for the mind, awesome for business and a great leisure activity, it’s great to get in a game of golf whilst on holiday and the golf rounds end up being a huge networking opportunity as well. I do many corporate motivational speaking assignments and so many things emerge from rounds at the course!
GDI: You have enrolled at the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Dubai. How satisfied are you with your progress under Justin Parsons, your coach? How often have you been there?
RP: I train in Dubai 4 times a year. I’ve been visiting this school for the last three years. It’s not a permanent training center for me as my work is in India and I can’t move there for good. So what I do is, book classes with my coach Justin, put in a month or so of very concentrated golf instruction and training, some fitness with coach Alistair, and then come back to India and follow up on my training. The coaching has helped, I visited the school first as a 16-handicapper, and now I play to a 6!
GDI: You made your TV debut as a presenter alongside Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe during the 2016 Rio Olympics. Did you ever think of picking up TV as an alternate career?
RP: I enjoy TV and would certainly be open to exploring more of it. I enjoyed presenting the Olympics especially as I relate to the event in such a huge and personal way, and really cheering for the country which is most important to me. We are now looking at doing a mini-series on swimming technique online which may also be broadcast on TV that I think should be very interesting as well.
GDI: You also happen to be a motivational speaker. How busy does that keep you and which are the notable gatherings you have addressed?
RP: I generally do one to two speaking engagements a month. I have done the TEDX talks, spoken at corporate forums like the CII and CLO, addressed bankers and management consultants, corporate houses such as Reliance brands, Kamani Oils leading educational institutes such as Symbiosis, NMIMS, Thapars and a host of schools across the country as well.