Amateur golfer Navish Gupta of the Gold Coast is calling his latest golfing success his Lagaan moment.
AT A GLANCE
- It was a Lagaan type challenge: win the championship to win… a special prize
- Amateur golfer Navish Gupta rose to the challenge, overcoming better and younger players
- Special celebrations ensued, in some familiar colours
Seeing the underdog rise to victory is a familiar trope in sport films – Hollywood, Bollywood or Aussiewood. The odds stacked against them, the out-of-towner is motivated by dreams of sporting glory (think Rocky), establishing a new record (think Ride Like a Girl), or perhaps fulfilling a parental ambition (think Dangal).
Sometimes though, it is national pride that is at stake (think Lagaan).
In Navish Gupta’s case, it was Lagaan all over again, as he won the Club Championship at The Grand Golf Club this month.
In the iconic Hindi film which became India’s entry to the 2002 Oscars, an impoverished but youthful farmer takes on the challenge thrown by a British Raj official – win a game of cricket and have your struggling community’s tax wiped off for three years.
So what did Navish play for, in 2021? Uranium for India, perhaps? Free trade agreement? Compassion for international students?
No, only the much simpler satisfaction of seeing his birth country’s flag hoisted at a private and exclusive Australian golf club.
And when did it fly high, it was no less than an Olympic event for 54-year-old Navish.
Recounting the championship, Navish described, “I was among the eight who qualified at the quarter final stage. The Club President Jimmy Vernon, a good friend, joked that if I won, he would hoist the Indian flag at the club. It was a good laugh, given I play with a handicap of 4 while my opponents, all of them much younger than me, have a handicap of zero.”
It was a challenge nonetheless and Navish was all fired up.
“The semis were gruelling; after 36 holes I was one of two men left standing.”
Navish then rang Jimmy Vernon, to ask if he remembered his promise about the Indian flag.
The 88-year-old replied, “I will honour my words.”
Of course, he had to seek permission from the club committee, to hoist another nation’s flag on the premises.
As Navish Gupta emerged victorious, the Indian Tricolour was unfurled, bringing a touch of colour to the clubhouse.
“I felt very proud,” the 2021 Club Champion revealed. “I’d seen this very scene play out in Dangal and similar films, but this was completely my own doing!”
The Tiranga flew proud for two whole days, until the Club’s year-end party. It was a grand affair, being the Club’s 24th birthday as well.
“Indian-origin Uber drivers who drove the guests in were surprised and happy to see the Tricolour fluttering away,” Navish laughed. “Why Indian flag, they asked. We have an Indian champion, they were told.”
And the icing on the cake, was, quite literally, the cake of the day. “It came out decorated with tricolour candles!”
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In his speech at the event, Navish described his golfing journey with much candour. It began 25 years ago, when he lived in Indonesia.
“I took the family out for a picnic one day. Looking for a peaceful spot, I came upon a beautiful green clearing. We spread out our mat, made ourselves comfortable, and took out our samosas and chai. We were enjoying the serenity of it all, until a group of men came up. What the hell, they said to us, you’re on our putting green!”
Navish had heard of golf before, but had never been on a course.
“That sparked my interest, and I decided to give the game a try.”
An India-trained chartered accountant, Navish became a successful entrepreneur in Indonesia manufacturing furniture.
He moved base to Australia in 2003, continuing to grow his business.
Currently he is semi-retired, offering management consultancy. He plays four days a week at The Grand.
Designed by Australian golfing icon Greg Norman, the 19-hole course is one of the world’s leading private courses and is described as “only available to a privileged few”.
“Yes it’s an exclusive golf club,” Navish revealed. “Its 555 members could be described as the who’s who of Queensland, perhaps even the country.”
Navish is also keeping an eye on the golf scene in India. “The game is picking up beautifully there. India did surprisingly well at the Tokyo Olympics, and I must single out Aditi Ashok, the 23-year-old who finished 4th. I’m also very impressed by the courses in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.”
He’s also in contact with professional golfer Gaganjit Singh Bhullar.
Looking back at 2021, Navish says it’s been a good year for him
“I had a hole-in-one in July; I won my age-group championship (50-plus), and finally claimed the club championship.”
Plans for next year?
“Play as much golf as I can. Till the time my body allows! Oh, and win the Club Championship again.”