On the sunny and pristine green golf courses in Morocco, Indian golfers from the Rotary fraternity made history by winning the first-ever ‘Nation Cup’ at the 57th International Golfing Fellowship for Rotarians (IGFR) World Championship 2022, which drew to a close in the first week of November.
Among celebrations and festivities, fine food and drink, and of course some serious golfing, 182 Rotarian golfers and partners from 22 nations met up in Marrakech, Morocco and enjoyed a week of fellowship, sunshine and golf. “I am especially pleased to have been able to welcome so many first time IGFR participants led by our friends in India and Estonia, to call out two countries who attended with first timers in large numbers. I sincerely hope you all enjoyed the week, made new friends and plan to come back next time. And of course: spread the word and bring a friend,” said IGFR president Andrea Oddi.
In 2021 SAFGR raised $280,000 through the RI President’s Cup
A lot of credit for the success of golfers from India, and the rest of South Asia — Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal — goes to PDG Parag Sheth from RID 3060, who had initiated the South Asian Fellowship of Golfing Rotarians in 2015–16. Both Sheth and his spouse Punam are keen and passionate golfers. “Today the Fellowship has a membership exceeding 460 members from South Asia and the SAFGR is affiliated with IGFR,” he says.
Sheth himself won the runner-up prize in the handicapped category, while Indian golfers bagged many other prizes. Thrilled about “India making history at this prestigious golfing tournament of Rotary,” says Sheth who has initiated the RI President World Cup last year when Shekhar Mehta was the RI president, and has been golfing with spouse Punam for more than 10 years. The couple lives in Bharuch, but they also have a home in Ahmedabad where every extended weekend, beginning Friday, they tee away at the Kensville Golf Resort. “We actually play golf four days a week,” he grins.
The Rotarian who has been instrumental in organising numerous golf tournaments for the SAFGR as its founder chair, across the country and the world, says, “I will always be grateful to PRIDs Sushil Gupta and Yash Pal Das for the support and the encouragement they gave me for forming the SAFGR.”
Speaking about the trigger for forming SAFGR, the past governor says, “when I was selected DG for 2015–16, Punam and I thought a golf fellowship in South Asia should be initiated as it would help both fellowship and fundraising for not only TRF and polio, but also for the service projects being done by various clubs and districts.”
He then motivated Nishant Ramani and Kalpesh Shah, both members of RC Vadodara Sayajinagari, to organise the first-ever golf fellowship of Indian Rotarians in Ahmedabad, in which 45 golfers from 9 RI districts participated. It was here that all the participants unanimously resolved to initiate the SAFGR, to further “promote fellowship, cement networking and collect funds for TRF and other charitable activities.”
Target to raise $1.5 million from the IGFR International tournament to be held in Delhi in 2025
The inaugural tournament was played at Bengaluru in RID 3190 under the chairmanship of late K Vijay Kumar from RC Bangalore. “It was a great success, going by the scale and enthusiasm shown by Rotarian golfers from all over India and Bangladesh. With strong support from the then RI President Barry Rassin, and the late past RI directors Sushil Gupta and Yash Pal Das, the fellowship was registered in 2016 as a non-profit organisation.
Sheth says that the SAFGR always kept its focus on raising funds for both TRF and club/district service projects, lift Rotary’s public image and keep geographical diversity in mind while holding tournaments across India and the world. Its main objective to raise funds for charity has been quite successful. “For instance, last year we raised $280,000 through the RI President’s Cup which was played in 28 countries and had 1,036 participants from all over the world, comprising Rotarians, their friends and family members. The YP Das tournament raised in its very first year $325,000.”
“Totally we have raised over $1 million from the tournaments played in South Asia as well as rest of the world and most of the money goes to TRF, with some funds going to clubs for service projects,” he adds.
The SAFGR has held golf tournaments in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Dhaka, Jamshedpur, Jaipur, Kathmandu, Kodaikanal and many other places. It has also held two editions of virtual tournaments in member countries when over 567 and 782 golfers participated, and raised funds for TRF.
Punam and Parag Sheth were enthusiastic participants when RI organised a fundraising golf event with golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Rotary’s global ambassador for polio eradication, at the prestigious Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida, US, in March 2019. At that single event, a total of $5.25 million was raised. Sheth has been invited as a member of IGFR for a three-year term beginning Jan 2022.
At the golf tournament organised by Rotary International in March 2019, $5.25 million were raised for TRF
Thanks to the enthusiasm and passion displayed by the SAFGR, it was selected to host the world championship in 2022, “but Covid played spoilsport and the entire IGFR calendar had to be churned. Now India will host the world tournament in Delhi in 2025. We hope to raise $1.5 million through this championship. Through help and support from PRID Ashok Mahajan, we are trying to get $100,000 from Rajashree Birla’s Aditya Birla Foundation,” says Sheth. The next IGFR tournament will be held in Italy from July 1–7.
On how the funds are raised through these golfing events, he says that each golfer who wants to participate in these tournaments has to contribute a minimum of $50; “of course there are those who contribute much more. Those who donate $1,000 are given the ‘supporter’ category. And two of us, AKS members Navjeet Chawla and myself, have donated $25,000.”
RI President’s tournament 2023 will see participation from 5,000 players from 50 countries, playing at 300 golf courses
At the RI President’s tournament in Feb 2023, “we hope to rope in 5,000 players from 50 countries, playing at nearly 300 golf courses.” He explains the unique concept — these players will play at different locations, all of them will register online, each paying a minimum contribution of $50 which will go to TRF. The results and other nitty-gritties will be done online.
He adds that “even during the pandemic, when most golf courses were shut, SAFGR thought of innovative programmes to stay connected such as ‘know our member’ talks, golfers’ ‘exchange programme’ on the lines of Rotary Exchange programme, etc. These are a few reasons why a golfer needs SAFGR’s handholding to experience the world,” smiles Sheth.