July 22: Eighteen-year-old Ashok Kumar is a golf champion in the making. But barely six years ago, he was accused of stealing at the same club where he plays winning game after game, today.
He has won many golfing titles in the junior category and also amateur or beginners titles in prestigious golfing events.
Ashok was a poor boy from a village in Bihar. He came to Delhi to earn some money for his family back home. He was 12 years old and missed home badly. The only good thing was, his brother also lived in Delhi. The two lived together. Right next to the city’s Air Force Golf Club.
Ashok began to visit the club to see what was going on. Very soon he found work pulling trolleys. At the same time, he began to observe the strange but exciting game called golf. It was only a matter of time before Ashok became a caddy at the club.
Along with the dozen other caddies his job involved carrying the golf clubs of players in the course and fetching the balls they hit during a game. He was a player’s shadow through sun and wind and rain. For all this, he earned Rs. 50 per day.
Ashok also played whenever he got an opportunity. Until one day, when he was accused of stealing from the club and told to get out forever.
Ashok was devastated. His job was gone, he was called a thief, and he would now never get to play again. What was he to do?
That was when Amit Luthra came into his life. A well-known golfer, Luthra could not bear to see the state of the young boy. He persuaded the golf club officials not to take any action against Ashok and keep him on at the club. He even went to the extent of hiring Ashok as his caddy.
Watching him play, Luthra realised that Ashok was not just any kid wanting to try his hand at golf because he had seen others playing it. He was actually good at the game.
So Luthra enrolled Ashok in the junior training programme at the Delhi Golf Club in 1995. “I was fortunate as he ( Luthra ) helped me a lot”, Ashok said to ‘The Hindu’ recently.
Others helped too. Especially after observing his talent. Like Australian coach Kel Llewellyn, Indian coach Ajay Gupta and veteran golfer Nonita Lall Qureshi.
At first, Ashok did not perform very well. But hard work and a determination to do well kept him going. He began to win titles. People finally took notice when he won the 1999 prestigious Hero Honda Masters title in the beginner’s section. Following this win, Ashok’s performance is getting better every day. He has also played tournaments in China and Singapore, and won.
“Whatever Ashok has achieved is due to his own belief and dedication,” says Luthra. That, along with a little help from kind-hearted people like Luthra, is all that Ashok needs.