“It gives me thrill to compete with the best golfers in the country”: Kapil Dev

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Kapil Dev to play in the ‘Champions for a Cause’ charity event on July 11 at Delhi Golf Course

Story by Abhimanyu Mathur for Delhi Times

In almost eight days time, the iconic Delhi Golf Course will host a special four-man golf match to raise money for charities in COVID-19 relief work . What makes this occasion special is that it will be the first major sporting event in the country since March, when all sports activities were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What makes it extra special is that the four-man field will include two of the top professional golfers in India – Gaganjeet Bhullar and Shubhankar Sharma alongside former cricketers and avid amateur golfers Kapil Dev and Murali Kartik.

The fundraising event, titled Champions for a Cause, is being organised by golf administrator Dilip Thomas in support of the COVID-19 relief efforts by the NGO Magic Bus , and will be played on July 11. According to the organisers, the event will follow the government guidelines in place at the time in terms of spectators and players. It aims to raise over Rs 1 crore in support of the NGO. The match will also feature a set of on-course challenges to raise additional charitable funds.

23-year-old Shubhankar Sharma is a two-time winner on the European Tour and has been ranked as high as 68 in the world. “It feels good to bring the sport back. We, sportsmen, are entertainers in the end. So, whatever we do, it is all for the spectators. So when you get to play for a cause like this, it always feels special,” he says. He will be joined by Gaganjeet Bhullar, who is one of the few Indians to win on both the Asian and European Tours over the years. “It has been a time of struggle for everyone. So I am looking forward to being in action. As pro golfers, this is the least we can do. I can’t wait to get back on the course,” says the 32-year-old.
Joining the two are former cricketers Kapil Dev and Murali Kartik, both of whom have developed quite a reputation as amateur golfers since their respective retirements from cricket. Some purists within golf have objected to having two cricketers in the fray but Shubhankar is quick to rubbish any such criticism. “Cricket is definitely more popular than golf,” he argues, “and this event is about getting eyeballs and raising money. So it is good that we are getting popular cricketers. And these two are good golfers, not just any cricketers. The focus should be on maximising the funds raised and nothing else.”

Talking about his participation, Kapil Dev says, “When the country is facing such challenges, it is our duty to do whatever little we can do to help. As a sportsman, it gives me the added thrill of competing with the best pro players in the country.” But just how competitive will it get out there? Shubhankar feels it will be pretty competitive as “sportspersons do not like to lose”. “As sportspersons, we are always looking to do our best to win. So I’m sure it will be a pretty competitive atmosphere out there. And although I never played with Kapil sir or Murali, I have seen them and I know they are quite good,” he says.

Gaganjeet, on the other hand, believes in a match played for a cause like this, winning or losing is immaterial. He tells us, “Here, it is not about winning or losing. The main objective is raising money for the charity and putting up a good show. Ofcourse, we will all do our best but I don’t suppose competition will be on anyone’s mind that day.” Regardless, the four athletes – and countless fans – are awaiting the second Saturday of July so that competitive sport can restart in India after what seems like a lifetime.

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