As the Air India flight from Kolkata started its descent into Kathmandu, I had a feeling of déjà vu. My last visit to Kathmandu five years ago was also to participate in the Pro-Am event of the Surya Nepal Masters golf competition at the Gokarna Forest Golf Resort.
Despite the chaos of the airport terminal in Kathmandu, the potholes and dust outside, it was like a home-coming to be back in the familiar and serene surroundings of Gokarna which is one of the most scenic golf courses that I have played on. The view of snow-capped Mt Dorje Lakpa, the dense primeval forest, undulating fairways and impeccable greens are unique, and the physical exertion of just walking the 18 holes is by itself a tiring but pleasant experience.
The Surya Nepal Golf Open was introduced in 1993 at the Royal Nepal Golf Club as the first professional competition in the country. The venue was shifted to Gokarna when the course was officially inaugurated six years later. The game has grown in popularity over the years (as has a prize money for the pros) and over 30 professional golfers and almost 100 amateurs participated in this year's Surya Masters event. The management of the Gokarna golf resort has done well to maintain and promote the course with a view to boosting golf tourism.
My friends Biresh Paul, Buddha and I were paired off with the Sri Lankan pro Anura Rohana who is a past winner of the competition, and the format was what is known as a 4 ball-better ball where all 4 members of the team tee-off and the best ball is chosen for the second shot which again is played by all the team members, and so on and so forth. This format of the game focuses on team effort more than individual performance and we combined well as a team. The group led by Nepal's top golfer Shiva Ram Shrestha fought hard but eventually we managed to beat them to win the Pro-Am event.
The thing about winning a competition, especially a prestigious event such as this, is that we are obliged to come back the following year to defend our title. It's a bit like defending your honour. Looking forward to next year's Surya Masters at Gokarna.
Abhijit Chadha wins
The partisan Nepali crowd was rooting for 27-year-old Shiva Ram Shrestha but the pro from Chandigarh shot a final round of 4-under 68 and walked away with a Rs 646,000 cheque and trophy. Vijay scored an even par card of 72. Shiva Ram went 1-over 73 and Mukesh submitted a card of 71. Tashi Tsering won the amateur section with 8-over 286 and finished tied-25th overall.