As we approach 7th international golf tournament "Kazakhstan open - 2011", we had the honor to speak with the Konstantin LIFANOV - Tournament Director, Golf Director of the Golf Club "Nurtau" and one of the founders of the Kazakh golf.
- Konstantin how you got into golf, not quite a traditional sport for the post-Soviet countries??
- For me, this story began twenty-five years ago. I used to be into Greco-Roman wrestling since I was a kid and until my 21st birthday. But then, in 1987 our family have moved to the new house in another city. In the same place, just in a hundred yards from our new home, there was first in the USSR 9-hole golf course built by the government and at the initiative of Sven Johansson, the famous Swedish hockey player.
They also opened a special sports school for children and youth and were looking for children from the local schools. Fortunately, I was among those lucky children chosen to attend new sports school. Well, of course at that moment I didn't really understand how lucky I was. At that time we were thinking of a golf as a game with all those knee socks and shoes, but not as a real sport. But it turned out to be a very fascinating sport right after our first training session. We then started training according to the programs designed by coaches and taking part in our first competitions.
- What about your wrestling training?
- For a long time in my life I did both golf and wrestling. But gradually my passion for golf overcame passion for wrestling, despite the fact that at the age of twenty I was already nominated title of master of sports in Greco-Roman wrestling.
The fact is that in those days Champion of Moscow almost always won Championship of Russia. I took part in three Championships and was not very successful, winning second and third places. And after fourth Championship I decided to concentrate on golf. That's how it started. Since then I couldn't imagine my life without golf. It was our first sports club were we all grew up, trained and became professional players.
- What happened then?
- In 1996 I started my professional career in golf and took part at my first professional tournaments. I used to work in the Moscow Golf Club as a children's coach and for the first time as the golf director. I also used to work as the head coach of the junior Russian golf team.
So for a long time I used to play and coach at the same time. Maintaining high professional level in golf was necessary both for the coaching work and for make a living.
That's how everything - work and hobbies and sports - merged into one.
- How would you describe the essence of golf as a sport?
- For me golf first of all is a way of life. Compared to other sports, such as wrestling and other power sports and martial arts, where the most important thing is the physical advantage over an opponent, golf allows many professionals achieve same high level. And the success of a professional golfer is largely determined by his attitude to win, his ability to manage emotions and his character. You have to live in golf, feel and live through every hit, every move on the golf course and every hole. There is no other way for success in golf.
Just as Tiger Woods in his best years used to inspire everyone and himself with his crazy energy, charisma, every time turning the game into a show.
Golf is a kind of game that will probably change you, "impose" you its rules and principles.
- What is the basic principle or concept anyone should know to be on the golf course?
- Absolute honesty and integrity with your rivals and yourself. It should also be noticed that golf develops and perfects player's serenity, patience and self-confidence. Golf is a kind of game that will educate you and even change the way you live.
- It is believed that golf is a game for rich and very rich people. Is that right?
- In order to answer your question in full, let's turn to the history of golf. As legend says golf originated in Scotland, where shepherds used their staffs to play with stones on the coast. And in Scotland, there are a lot of marmots digging their burrows in the ground, which became the prototype of modern holes of 11cm width.
Shepherds came with an idea to hit the stones in these burrows. The winner in this game was the one who was most accurate and spent less attempts than others to get stone in the burrow. This then developed into a game popular among Scottish soldiers. And it is only after then that game started developing in what we know today as golf, with its professional players, clubs, awards, etc.
Later, the game drew the attention of the rich and wealthy citizens who started betting on this game. And gradually golf developed from the shepherds' game to the real industry and business. Golf courses were built all over the world, with the Americans leading in the number of courses built. In some places were built special golf stadiums, with cameras all around, so that spectators and TV viewers could see literally everything that happens during the game. And soon the game earned its image of some expensive entertainment, game for rich and wealthy.
But on the other hand, for example in America, there are so-called public golf coursers accessible to all population groups. Oldest clubs in Scotland still offer 18-holes game for the traditional £5. By the way, there you can also see people walking in open spaces, hitting and then collecting their balls. More simply today's golf has both a certain elitism and due to the history of the game its democracy.
- What about golf in Kazakhstan?
- Golf is being developed in Kazakhstan for only 15 years and of course it's a very short time compared to the 600 years of golf's history. Nevertheless, golf in our country is also moving toward mass. For example, golf-club "Nurtau" has the children's section with both paid and free group training available. Cost of these classes is a little over 12 thousand tenge per month, including all the necessary equipment and a qualified coach.
We also have free groups in order to give talented children chance to become true professionals.
As for the availability of courses for adults, in golf club "Arial" anyone can pay 5-6 thousand tenge and enjoy a 9-holes mini-golf game. For 2 thousand tenge in the golf-club "Nurtau" you can do a few hours training on the special training golf course. So, playing golf in Kazakhstan is not more expensive than for example skiing on Shymbulak or playing tennis, and sometimes even cheaper.
- How many children attend your golf training?
- Today, our children groups involve about 100 children training 8 times a month. And for the last 8 years, the total number of children who passed through the school of golf at the golf club "Nurtau" already exceeded fifteen hundred. I am sure that for most of them golf has become not just a hobby but a part of their lives.
We will continue to do everything possible to make golf more accessible to more children. And do not forget that golf is an Olympic sport. Many countries have special national programs to support golf. For example in Russia under such program government opened several youth sports schools where children are trained for free. We hope that the Kazakh government will also support this prospective sport more actively.
- Soon will start 7th Tournament "Kazakhstan open". Did it take its rightful place in the European tournament grid?
- First of all I would like to emphasize that "Kazakhstan open" was initiated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev under the PR program of our country for the international community. Also the tournament became a tool for enhancing the investment attractiveness of Kazakhstan. And it should be noticed that "Kazakhstan open" is coping with its aims very effectively.
Among thirty-five European Challenger Tour tournaments "Kazakhstan open"'s prize is one of the largest. Every year hundred best golfers of the European Challenge Tour come to Kazakhstan and many of them then become part of the world's golf elite.
For example Michael Kaymer took part in the tournament in 2005, when he was not a widely known sportsman. Only in 2006 he was recognized by the whole world, and now he is third in the world rankings. There are a lot of other examples. Alvaro Kiros, Roc Fisher and one of the brothers Malinari - they all passed the golf courses of "Kazakhstan open" on their way to the world's podium.
In short, our tournament opens the way for its players to the world fame and great victories.
- Is there anything special and interesting spectators and fans of the "Kazakhstan open" should expect in 2011?
- This year's tournament will be held on the golf courses of the Golf Club "Nurtau" that have been recently modernized and renovated. A greater emphasis has been put on personnel training who will service "Kazakhstan open - 2011".In the "Pro Am" (team competition prior to the tournament) for the first time will participate a team made up of children who will get here their first professional lesson. And, as I have mentioned before, tournament will be attended by the future stars of world golf. Who knows, maybe after a couple of years someone of this tournament's participants will become the new Tiger Woods, another legend of the game.
- And our traditional question: what would you wish our website's visitors?
- Go ahead and try yourself on the golf course, ladies and gentlemen! Frankly, we're always happy to see journalists in our club. Not to make it easier for you to write about golf. But to give you an another passion, a passion that will make your life more beautiful and brighter!