When he was seven years old, Chinnaswamy Muniyappa broke branches off trees so he could use them as makeshift golf clubs. He would then try teeing off at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) in Bangalore, where his father worked as lawn keeper, and his mother in garden maintenance. He would also make small sums of money by gathering balls after practice sessions.

“It was Re1 per hour," he recalls. Now, 25 years later, as he sits sipping on watermelon juice at the KGA lounge, members greet him—some out of familiarity, some out of admiration.

Golfer Chinnaswamy Muniyappa

But the course was not always smooth. He began playing competitively in 1995 at the age of 17. His parents, Chinnaswamy and Chinamma, encouraged him to play professionally. He managed to gather the money so he could participate in tournaments. But for several years until 2003, he kept entering tournaments, but couldn’t get past the qualifying stages. “I lost a lot of money, all investment and no return," he adds.

But the years after were good—he finally began to win tournaments. The career-high translated into financial stability. In 2003, when he placed second at a golf tournament in Chennai, he returned home with Rs75,000. “We lived in something like a tent in a slum. I used that money as advance to move to a concrete house," he says, adding that his next goal is to buy a house in the city.

Dressed in smart golf casuals, Muniyappa also picked up style lessons from his more affluent friends at the club. “It is important to be well turned out at tournaments. It plays on your confidence as well," he says, smiling.

Muniyappa hasn’t forgotten his arduous climb and constantly reminds himself that he has a long way to go. He hopes that he will one day play with Tiger Woods. “Golf is about physical and mental form. I can work on both aspects, but it’s also an expensive sport," he says.

Pavitra Jayaraman

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