Shillong, Nov 1: With the glorious autumn sunshine on his back, Jason Passah takes a swing with his club and sends the ball a couple of hundred yards up the fairway. He has been doing this for hours every day in preparation for this month’s 2nd North East Olympic Games 2022.
In his mid-twenties, Passah is the youngest in Meghalaya’s 14-member team that will take part in the four-day event at the renowned Shillong Golf Course.
The Games begin on 10 November and conclude on 16 November. Golf, however, will run until 13 November.
There are 14 slots for each state and, so far, three have filled their quota – hosts Meghalaya, Assam and Manipur – for a total of around 70 golfers across the eight states.
Assam is expected to mount a strong challenge, Passah said, but he sounded confident in Meghalaya’s strength. Over the course of four days, consistency will be paramount and that requires the long hours of practice.
The event coordinator is Rudi Warjri, who fell in love with the game during his career in the Indian Foreign Service.
He is excited that golf is making its debut at the NEOG, which he feels is fitting given that it is now included in the National Games and Olympics.
“You have to remember that golf reached India before it even got to the United States. So, we have a rich golf legacy and heritage in India, including the North East, but we have not been able to take advantage of these assets as yet,” he said.
Shillong Golf Course was founded in the late 19th century and has largely been developed out of the natural surroundings, i.e. it was not artificially created, and has been dubbed the ‘Gleneagles of the East’. The 18-hole course is challenging for any golfer but the state’s players are hoping for a little home advantage.
The Meghalaya government has a vision to leverage this stunning course and has been ably supporting the various tournaments held there, which have included regional, Indian Golf Union and Professional Golf Tour of India competitions over the years.
The tourism potential is a big one, as many countries in South East Asia, like Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia are successfully promoting golf in this vein, Warjri said, and this would give the local community a real stake in the golf course.
The events already hosted in Shillong have given the Meghalaya Golf Promoters Society (MGPS) the necessary experience to be able to take on the North East Olympic Games, MGPS Secretary Gaurav Bajaj, who will also be one of the competitors at the NEOG, said.
The MGPS has been trying to promote the sport at the grassroots over the years but is hoping that the NEOG will prove to be “a gamechanger for the growth of golf” in the state, Bajaj added.