News Makers 2017

Teeing up success

  • All things even, 2018 might just be the year ShivaramShrestha and Nepali golf have been eagerly waiting for
- Ritesh Rijal, Kathmandu

Dec 31, 2017-

A household name in the domestic sporting fraternity, Shivaram Shrestha’s rise to prominence is nothing short of a fairy tale.

Born into a humble family that lived close to the Royal Nepal Golf Course (RNGC) in Sinamangal, it was beyond the 33-year-old’s imagination that he would one day dominate the ‘Rich Man’s Game’.

“As a child I still remember playing ‘golf’ with friends in the open grounds around the course with whatever stick or ball we got ahold of,” reminiscences the undisputed king of Nepali golf, “We could see people playing at the RNGC and it was fun for us to imitate them with whatever objects we could find. Playing inside RNGC was out of question, of course. As with allchildren, it was all pure fun.”

Shrestha, however, recalls that his mindset changed once he learnt that golf was more than just a hobby, and that one could make “handsome sums of money” if they are able to crack into the upper echelons of the talent pool.

“Ever since then, I started to take the sport seriously. I knew that I can make a living out of the sport, I just didn’t know how to just yet,” he says.

But once he made up his mind, avenues began to open up. Unable to afford playing golf with proper gear, a 12-year-old Shrestha joined the RNGC as a ball boy instead. Then, in two years’ time, he became a caddy, which allowed him to have a closer look and feel for the sport as well as an opportunity to playwith authentic clubs and balls.

Shrestha has not looked back since. Now a father of a three-year-old son, Shrestha dominated the amateur field for around three years, frequently topping the rankings while also upstaging other, much polished professionals. He even clinched the 2005 Western Open title as an amateur. That victory in Pokhara signaled the arrival of a golfer with immense potential who could easily overtake the-then dominant figure Deepak Acharya, who already had 10 pro-title under his belt.

Fast forward to 2017 and Shivaram is the proud winner of 38 pro titles, far ahead of the next best performer, Ravi Khadka, who has 11 tour titles to his credit. Along the way, Shivaram has also pocketed over Rs 6 million in prize money from the domestic circuit alone. And since the Surya Nepal Tour—Nepal’s premiere golfing tourney—started in 2008-09, Shrestha has never relinquished his title, except for the year a motorcycle accident forced him out for a season “He is a born golfer, golfing appears to be in his genes. During his early days, his physique was absolutely perfect for the game,” says Deepak Acharya, a pro himself and a senior golfing director at the Gokarna Golf Club. “Given his potential, he can still achieve a lot beyond the domestic tour. But for that to happen, he needs strong financial backing in the form of sponsorships so that he gets to play, say for instance,the PGTI or the Asian Tour where the quality of the playing turf will help harness his skills even further. I am personally trying to find him such backing.”

Shrestha agrees with Acharya : “I have achieved everything: name, fame and decent  money, which I had never imagined was possible by playing golf. I am indebted to golf for whatever I am today and have no regrets whatsoever for making it my profession. But I believe I can compete at an international level but the financial constraints are hindering my ambition.”

With the desire to excel, Shrestha is attempting to play the PGTI once again, going through the Qualifying School in India. He has been a regular at the PGTI since 2008 but has not played there since 2015 because of the finances. “If you don’t make cuts regularly, it’s difficult for me to afford playing in the Indian Tour,” Shrestha says. “Hopefully after the Qualifying School, Deepak (Acharya) Dai’s effort (in finding me a sponsor) will materialise and I don’t need to worry about the financial costs of playing abroad.”

Shrestha also travelled twice to the US for training apart from harnessing his skills in Thailand and India. “It has definitely helped me as a player but I haven’t been able to capitalise on the knowledge.

The whole dynamics of golf changes once you return to play in Nepal. It may be due to the quality of the green,” adds Shrestha, who also won the prestigious NSJF(Nepal Sports Journalism Forum) player of the year Award in 2012.

But with years of experience now under his belt and possible sponsorship deals on the horizon, Shrestha is primed for success at levels previously unimaginable for Nepali golfers. All things even, 2018 might just be the year Shrestha and Nepali golf have been eagerly waiting for.

Published: 31-12-2017 13:34

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