Home Sports BILT Open tees off season with record Rs.8 mn prize money

BILT Open tees off season with record Rs.8 mn prize money

New Delhi, (IANS) Yet another big week is in store for Indian golf, this time on the Professional Golfer’s Tour of India (PGTI) as Indians play for a whopping Rs.8 million at the BILT Open 2007, which also heralds the start of the 2007-08 domestic golf season.

The tournament is offering the biggest prize purse ever in the history of Indian golf and will have all the major names. The previous best for a domestic event was the BILT Open 2006 worth Rs.7 million.

Rahil Gangjee, who finished third at the Indian Open Sunday will headline the field and with him will be Ashok Kumar, who topped the PGTI Order of Merit last season. The field also includes Gaurav Ghei, winner of the Pine Valley Beijing Open.

The strong field also has foreign challenge in the form of Singapore’s Lam Chih Bing and Australian Unho Park, both of whom played at the Indian Open.

Though the Indian Open winner, Jyoti Randhawa, has flown off to Europe to compete in Portugal, the BILT Open field has four Indians who finished in the top-10 at the Indian Open. While Gangjee was third, Ashok Kumar, S.S.P. Chowrasia and Arjun Singh all tied for ninth. There will also be Uttam Singh Mundy who was 13th, Shamim Khan and Gaurav Ghei.

Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh left Sunday to fulfil their commitment on the European Tour where they tee off in Portugal, while Shiv Kapur has already reached there.

“It is indeed a landmark prize purse,” said Ghei. “Ten years ago in 1997, when I first totalled Rs.1 million in a single season it was considered a big jump for Indian golf. Now we have the winner taking more than Rs. 1.29 million in the very first event of the season. That’s how big the PGTI and Indian golf have become.”

Ajai Gupta, tour commissioner of the PGTI, said: “While we touched Rs.45 million in prize money in the 2006-07 season in just 10 events, we are planning to have many more events and the purse will also go substantially. We will soon be announcing the rest of the calendar. Also, we have planned to make the season till December 2008, so that the following season will start from January 2009, aligning it with the international calendars.”

Gangjee, who was present at the announcement, said: “It is an incredible thing that we are playing for Rs.8 million at home. That works out to $200,000 and till a year ago some of the Asian Tour events had that kind of money.”

Both Ghei and Gangjee feel that Indian golf has grown rapidly in the last few years but more facilities in the form of championship courses like the Jaypee Greens, which will host the BILT Open, more driving ranges and public courses will lead to more players and talent coming up.

“We have a whole new crop coming up and don’t be surprised if you see 20 to 30 Indians on the Asian Tour in the near future. And of course then there will be more Indians on the European and US Tours also,” added Ghei, who has won Asian Tour titles.