Kabeer Marwah, 21, is not a golf prodigy—you know, the kind who was swinging a golf club on the greens by the time he was just 3 or so. In fact, he had never held a club until he was 19 and earlier thought “tee” was just a drink. A chance visit to a golf course with a senior from college got Kabeer hooked to the game. “I was drifting along in college. I had no clear career goal. First I wanted to major in finance, then management. But once I took up golf, I knew I could make a career in this sport,” he says.
His mother Kanika Marwah, a single parent until recently, was not thrilled when he announced his intention of becoming a professional golfer. “Frankly, I still am not sure if this is the right choice. I am an educationist by profession and everything in me was against this.” Kanika spent a few months in 2007 trying to talk Kabeer out of his golf obsession and even urged him to consider a sports management course as a career option. “I had no problem if he wanted to play golf, but would have preferred it if he studied alongside.”
It was only meetings with Kabeer’s mentor and coach Don Barrett, as well as her own friends who played golf, that made Kanika realize that for someone trying to break into the golf circuit, it was not possible to devote time to both academics and training simultaneously. “If he had said he wanted to take a year off to study for IIT, would I have cribbed? No. Now I think this is the same thing in a way, which is why I agreed to let him take 12 months off until January,” she says.
Tee off: Kabeer Marwah spent a month training in Surrey, England, and is determined to play professionally. Harikrishna Katragadda/Mint
To appease immediate family and ensure that Kabeer understood he was on a deadline, mother and son agreed that he would only get a year off from academics to prepare and concentrate on golf. “If we had not set that deadline, I don’t think I would have even got off base one with the family and my mum. But now I think she understands that it may take a little more than a year or so to get a ranking, without which I cannot achieve much,” explains Kabeer, with a glance at his mother. At present, Kabeer’s target is to “make the cut” at the Aircel PGTI Qualifying School, which will be held on 1 December in New Delhi.
Though Kanika has agreed to be a “golf mum”, she says she was ill-prepared to handle the commitment. “The level of money involved is huge. I don’t think many parents home in on these nitty-gritties when they give their children the freedom to pursue their dreams.”
From a custom-made golf set (“Kabeer is a tall lad and to play professionally, needs a golf set tailor-made to suit his size,” says Kanika), kits which need to be replaced constantly (balls, gloves), fees to play on the course (an average of Rs400 per day since the family has no membership at any of Delhi’s golf clubs) to expenses incurred when Kabeer has to travel around the country to participate in golf events, the family now knows golf training does not come cheap.
In good months (when Kabeer is not travelling), Kanika has to spend anywhere between Rs20,000 and Rs25,000 for equipment upgrade (golf gloves last around seven days and cost Rs900 per glove) and “green” fees. “I think most of our budgeting initially was based on prices we saw on the Internet. It was pretty shocking to realize everything here was almost double than what it is in the US,” says Kabeer.
Yet Kanika now says she does not regret her decision. Over the past year, she has seen a tremendous change in her son. From being a teenager with a hectic social life till about two years ago, the 21-year-old today has no interest in parties (Kabeer avoids late-night social dos because they interfere with his training sessions). “He was such a lazy boy, never waking up on time. Now he is up at 6am, in the gym for 2 hours, then at the golf course from 10am to about 6pm. He used to be very, very skinny but since he has taken up golf, he is concentrating on fitness training to build up his body and stamina,” she says.
Kabeer also spent a month training in Surrey, England, with his mentor in 2008, where he had to do everything on his own—laundry, making beds, cooking meals and even lugging his golf set around the course because he could not afford to hire a caddy at £20 (around Rs1,550) a day. “I think that gave him a glimpse of how hard life will be on the golf circuit—not just chores but also being mentally tough and getting used to a lonely life on the road,” says Kanika.
Even now, Kanika has a plan B for Kabeer—sports management courses, a job in a sports events management company—but her son refuses to think about it. “Plan B is for losers. If I keep those options in mind, I will never succeed in realizing my dream of being a professional golfer.”