Par for the Course: Golf’s Growing Stature in Nepal

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Par for the Course: Golf’s Growing Stature in Nepal

Historically regarded as an elite sport reserved for nobles and aristocrats, golf has progressed to becoming a popular sport in various parts of the world. Now, the sport seeks to capture Nepal’s attention. 

Golf, founded by the nobles and kings of Scotland back in the 15th century has always been a sport recognised for its exclusivity. The game is played in multi hectares of turf land. Water ponds, springs, and sandbanks are all within a golf course.  Golf courses cost millions in investment, which accounts for the pricey entry charges for the individuals to play.

It is not only the access to the golf course that needs consideration, but the kits associated with the game too are a matter of concern for many.  A high-end golf bag costs USD 200–USD 300, new irons are valued from USD 1000–USD 2000, hybrids and woods cost USD 500–USD 700, a putter needs USD 200 - USD 400, a rangefinder is priced as much as USD 300–USD 600, gloves are worth USD 20, balls cost around USD 60 a box, and tees and other assorted tools can cost as much as USD 40 combined.Considering the price barrier compared to other popular sports such as football and cricket, it is easy to see why golf is considered a lavish sport designed for the aristocrats.

As a result, the game has remained beyond the reach of the average person for years but at present, this mindset towards the game has changed. The sport is organised under various franchises and has been classified as a professional sport where many individuals from various economic backgrounds take part.

Many see it as a game with millions of potential earnings. In the modern context, numerous franchises conduct various tournaments annually for professional golfers. The Masters Tournament, the US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship are the most prestigious tournaments in the golfing arena. The prize value of The Masters Tournament amounts to USD 11 million and The US Open is valued at as much as USD 7.9 million.

Tiger Woods, arguably the most popular golfer of all time, is also one of the highest earning players in the world of sport. Although back-to-back injuries have constrained him and the American ace is past his prime, his cabinet of trophies collection is staggering. Woods has bagged 14 major championships and 79 PGA in his 22 year career making him one of, if not the best golfer of all time. Forbes ranked him the highest paid athlete for ten consecutive years from 2001 to 2011. He currently holds the 16th position with a total earning of USD 43.43 million this year. Phil Mickelson, another American golfer earned USD 41.3 million, followed by Jordan Spieth with USD 41.2 million.

Nepali Context
The history of golf in Nepal goes back to the time when a delegation of Rana ministers returned to Nepal with golf clubs after their visit to Scotland. They played golf in what is today’s Royal Golf Club situated in Tribhuvan International Airport.

During that era, the sport was limited to kings, royal guests, dignitaries and international VIPs. Later, corporate professionals from various business houses adopted the game and saw it as a potent networking tool. As a result, the first professional golf tournament Lava Cup was organised in 1920. 

At present, the country has established multiple golf courses such as Gokarna Golf Course, Nepal Golf Course, Royal Golf Club, and Himalaya Golf Course. Similar to the other parts of the globe, the sport in Nepal is no longer limited to nobles and high earners and many individuals are joining the game professionally.  

According to Deepak Acharya, general secretary of Nepal Golf Association, the association has been organising golf tournaments under amateur and professional categories. “Nepal Professional Golfers Association has been striving to lift the standard of Golf in Nepal for the last two and half decades. One is its main objective is to provide competitive opportunity for professional golfers and also ensure a decent prize purse in tournaments so that good players can afford to reasonably good living standard,” he says, adding, “We host a number of events a year in partnership with Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd and other sponsors, out of the notable tournaments are Surya Nepal Premier Golf Championship, Surya Nepal Eastern Open (played in Dharan), Surya Nepal Western Open (played in Pokhara), Surya Nepal NPGA Tour Championship, Surya Nepal Central Open, and Pilot Golfers NPGA Classic.” According to him, last year 5.8 million rupees was offered as the prize money and this year the amount will be increase by five percent. 

Though Nepal is a sport-loving nation, a large part of that love is reserved for football and cricket. Only a few players take their chances in the golf arena. In a country where the youth hardly fancy golf as a profession, how much do the individuals associated with the game earn? Below are the names of the top five earning golfing professionals who currently ply their trade in Nepal.

Shivaram Shrestha, who won five tournaments out of the ten held during the 2017-18 Golf Tour, is the highest earning Nepali golfer with total earnings of Rs 804, 250. The golfer clinched the Ghanashyam Golden Jubilee, Surya Nepal Central Open, Surya Nepal Eastern Open, Surya Nepal NPGA Match Play Golfer and Pilots NPGA Classic. Apart from those accolades, Shrestha finished second in the Surya Nepal P. Championship. He informed NBA that he had not signed any endorsement contracts so far.

Shivaram Shrestha, who won five tournaments out of the ten held during the 2017-18 Golf Tour, is the highest earning Nepali golfer with total earnings of Rs 804, 250. The golfer clinched the Ghanashyam Golden Jubilee, Surya Nepal Central Open, Surya Nepal Eastern Open, Surya Nepal NPGA Match Play Golfer and Pilots NPGA Classic. Apart from those accolades, Shrestha finished second in the Surya Nepal P. Championship. He informed NBA that he had not signed any endorsement contracts so far.

Bhuvan Nagarkoti won four tournaments during the 2017/18 Golf Tour. He bagged the Surya Nepal Challenge, Surya Nepal Kathmandu Open, Surya Nepal NPGA Championship, and Surya Nepal P. Championship. Besides those wins, he finished second behind Shivaram Shrestha in Surya Nepal NPGA Match Play and Pilots NPGA Classic. According to the Golf Association, Nagarkoti’s earnings amount to Rs 760,550 from the prize money of the ten tournaments he played in and he is ranked second based on his income.

Dhana Bahadur Thapa, who is both an army man and a golfer, claimed the Surya Nepal Western Open and collected Rs 115,000 as the winner. He also finished second behind Shivaram Shrestha in the Surya Nepal Challenge and claimed third prize in the Surya Nepal P. Championship. The player in total collected Rs 390,358.

Jayaram Shrestha won no major title this time but finished second place in three major tournaments. Shrestha claimed second position in the Ghanashyam Golden Jubilee, Surya Nepal Eastern Open and Surya Nepal Kathmandu Open tournaments. He informed NBA he was not offered any endorsement deals by any companies and had earned Rs 377,133 as prize money. 

Rame Magar secured third position three times during this past ten tournament golfing season. He came third in the Surya Nepal Central Open, Pilots NPGA Classic, and Surya Nepal Kathmandu Open. He, however, finished in the top five every time. Magar bagged Rs 293,250 in total. He too was not approached for an endorsement agreement.

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