We can bring sporting action back to Pakistan: Qayyum

January 12, 2014

We can bring sporting action back to Pakistan: Qayyum

The Defence Authority Country and Golf Club (DACGC) is experiencing a rebirth of sorts under the supervision of Brigadier (retd) Abdul Qayyum. An avid golfer himself, Qayyum began his stint as DACGC Secretary on November 30, 2012 with a resolve to make golfing a memorable experience at the club. Ask any of the golf-addicted members at DACGC and they will tell you that he has done a fabulous job during the first year of his stint.

But for Qayyum it remains a work in progress. He wants to make sure that the course is improved to a level where it delivers a solid golf experience with those added little touches that bring a smile to players’ faces, day in and day out.

"The thing is that there are so many things that you can do to improve the club," he told ‘The News on Sunday’ in an interview. "We have managed to achieve various targets but there are many other goals still to be reached which is why we keep working hard on a daily basis."

Qayyum is a die-hard sportsman. He was a footballer before joining the military and later became an avid squash player. He regularly played basketball and volleyball but finally in 1999 was introduced to a sport that has now become his greatest passion: Golf.

"One of my few regrets in life is taking up golf a bit late," he says with a smile.

Qayumm took up golf while based in Pano Aqil and continued playing it during his posting in Bahalwalpur. There was a two-year hiatus during his posting at the border but he was back to the course while serving as station commander in Abottabad.

"You see, I am totally addicted to golf," says Qayyum, a 14 handicapper.

That addiction seems to be helping Qayyum with his current assignment.

Almost 14 month ago when he began his stint, DACGC was already one of the top golfing facilities in the country. But it had its handicaps. Golfing was fun there but unplanned and wild growth on the edges of the various fairways would spoil the day for many a golfers. Then the club also lagged when it came to indoor facilities.

"I wanted to create a very healthy environment for the members with the belief that they should see it as their second home," he says.

During the past year, the club has improved its gym and added facilities like billiards, snooker, table tennis and a card room. More importantly, the course has been turned into a "garden", according to Qayyum.

In the future, the club is planning to provide basketball, badminton, tennis and jogging facilities to its 4000 odd members.

But that’s not all. The club wants to make it presence felt at the national level.

"From a broader perspective, we also want to play a role in the promotion of Pakistan golf," says Qayyum.

The club has taken a baby step by introducing a golf academy that provides coaching and assistance to golfers free of cost. It is now planning to turn it into a state-of-the-art training centre.

"We have plans to equip the academy with modern gadgetry," says Qayyum.

That means the next you visit the sprawling club don’t be surprised to see a world-class swing analysis studio, a nine-hole, par-three academy course, a short-game area, practice putting greens and a well-equipped driving range.

On an even broader front, the club is flexing its muscles to host an international tournament which Qayyum believes will help end Pakistan’s sporting isolation.

"It is not impossible, in fact it’s far from that," he says. "In fact I can say with certainty that with the right kind of support we can successfully host such a tournament in the near future."

Qayyum and fellow officials are confident that the DACGC, which is equipped with a world-class golf course and has a variety of other facilities, is ready to stage international golf tournaments. They are even sure about raising ample sponsorship for an international event.

"But we need the support of the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF) because they are the ones who will have to line up international events. We will take care of the rest," says Qayyum.

The idea is to revive the status of the prestigious Pakistan Open as an Asian Tour event. The Pakistan Open has primarily been a domestic event since its inauguration in 1967. In 1989, the championship was part of the old Asian circuit where the event was won by Filipino star Frankie Minoza. Pakistan have produced only one Asian Tour winner in the past following Taimur Hussain’s success at the 1998 Myanmar Open.

The Pakistan Open was a part of the Asian Tour in 2006 and 2007. The event was held here at the Karachi Golf Club on both occasions and attracted several leading pros from the region as a part of a three-year deal. However, security concerns forced the cancellation of the 2008 edition.

England’s Chris Rodgers won the inaugural event ahead of India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and Amandeep Johl. In 2007 Malaysia’s Airil Rizman claimed his maiden Asian Tour title with a two stroke triumph over Scott Hend of Australia.

Pakistan’s golf officials have tried and failed in the past to put the country back on the Asian Tour map. The two major reasons behind their failure were security concerns and a lack of sponsorship.

To hold an international professional event on its soil Pakistan will need to convince the body governing that particular circuit about both security and prize money. The minimum prize purse of an international event is US$300,000. The Pakistan Open -- currently a domestic event -- offers just a fraction of that amount.

But more than the money factor, it’s the security issue that is the biggest stumbling block in the way of Pakistan Open becoming a part of the regional circuit once again.

Since March 2009 when the Sri Lankan cricket team was ambushed by terrorists in Lahore, internationals teams have stayed away from Pakistan. There have been minor sporting events involving foreign players but such contests have been few and far between.

Faced with such major hurdles, Pakistan golf officials seem to have stopped worrying about the return of international action to the country. But Qayyum isn’t one of them.

He is confident that Pakistan golf can pave the path for the return of big-time sports activities to the country. His optimism springs from the fact that DACGC is capable of handling both the security and money issues.

"As far as sponsorship is concerned I’m confident that we can raise enough funds to stage an international tournament," he says. "In fact I have a company that is willing to dish out 100,000 dollars for such an event right away. There are also other organisations, who are keen on sponsoring such an endevour," he adds.

Qayyum is also sure that DACGC can come out with fool-proof security plans to lure top professionals of the region. "We are in a position to offer complete security to touring players and officials," says the DACGC secretary, stressing that the visitors can stay in the fully-secure club during the entire duration of their visit.

"We have five-star chalets and excellent facilities. It’s like a resort and the visitors will want to keep coming back," he signs off.

We can bring sporting action back to Pakistan: Qayyum