It's that time of the year again when I begin my golf travels. This time it's destination Abu Dhabi for the Golf Business Forum. Where business and golf come together and the industry's top minds explore new opportunities, ideas, technology, innovation in the game.
It's an important milestone in ensuring that golf remains an evolving sport in the light of economic challenges, the cricket frontier and even the long format of the game. Interestingly enough, the confluence of business and golf makes it an even more exciting conference to be part of.
As a business journalist I have interviewed over three hundred global and Indian executives on what they learn from the game. But at this conference I am going to learn and know about how corporations are promoting the sport, how new technology and ideas are helping popularise it and just what kind of new environment friendly efforts are improving the cost-benefit analysis for the game.
There's another very curious discussion at the forum this time that promises to raise a few eyebrows among my Indian friends who believe golf is an old man's (or woman's) game. The 18-30 age group is actually reflecting a complete changed consumer behaviour, the kind that suggests that golf not only appeals to this age bracket but also may depend on them to grow the sport across the world. I for one have long been an advocate of 'young golf'.
Just yesterday one of India's twenty-something Anirban Lahiri won the Indonesian Masters with a surprise but strategic eagle putt. That 20 feet beauty, a neat putt, let him establish to the global audience that Indian golf is talent par excellence. For those of us who have been crying hoarse about finding our own Tiger Woods, our own icons to help push the game, will only be too pleased to see the performances of young players like Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Chikkarangappa and Rashid Khan.
The latter two, were fostered by a foundation that gave them golf clubs because they didn't have access or the funds to play the game. This is the real story of Indian golf. It's not elite. It's not pretentious. It's not about cigar smoking big shots. It's about below-30 fire-in-their-belly golfers. These will be our icons.
If India is among the countries along with that promise to resurrect the game's economics, then we have to be a player in the part. I am only too happy to note that young cricketers are also taking to it in a big way.
I am most hopeful that as I represent India to discuss innovation in golf and explore the possibilities of growth in the sport, golf's future will pick the country as a demographic play. And that the promise of numbers will bring global names, sponsors, technology, innovation and attention to the sport in the country. Like in any idea, business will have to remain at the central of its growth.