Playing against the course of life!
Arts and sports are yet to make it to the mainstream of career options. As someone who humbly chose
the former to make a living, I was excited and thrilled to speak with someone who has embraced the latter with courage. Phurin Narula’s love for golf shines through his face as he greets me at the driving range he trains in. He sits me down to talk me about the game, his newly acquired ‘golf-pro’ status, and his transition from being a player to an instructor.
“I’ve been playing golf ever since I was two. My grandfather owned a golf course, and my parents took me to play there. My parents love and play golf, and being with them at the course have been some of the most memorable parts of my childhood,” he tells me, elucidating that his relationship with the game was a
heritage that was passed down to him.
Phurin was born and raised in Bangkok as a third-generation Thai-Indian, and lived in the city before pursuing his Bachelor’s degree abroad. He had been training in golf since a young age, and leaving the pursuit of becoming a professional golfer in lieu of the safety that comes with formal education was a tough decision for him, although one that he doesn’t regret:
“When I was younger, my coach passionately urged me to pursue the sport seriously and make a goal out of playing professional tournaments. But that would have required me to opt out of university, which both my parents and I were unsure of,” he reveals. “When I look back, I wonder what it would be like to have pursued the goal instead of taking the conventional route, but if you ask me honestly, I would make the same
decision even today. It was important to have my education as a backup.
“I have learnt everything I know about golf from my coach, and losing him a few years ago threw me off the game for a long time. When I returned from uni, I joined my family business in hospitality since I did not have the heart to return to it. Slowly, as time passed, my friends kept inviting me to play friendly matches with them, and I missed being good at the game. That’s how I got back on the course.”
Phurin talks to Masala further about the specifics of when and how golf reinstated itself as a part of his life, and despite the overbearing sounds of Sukhumvit, we dive deep into his nostalgic reminiscences.
Can you tell the golf rookies like me a little more about the game, and how it fulfils you?
In golf, the aim of a player is to achieve the target in as few shots as possible. Every course has 18 holes, and you are essentially playing against the course as opposed to playing against people like in other sports. The best thing about the game is the feeling you get when you hit the ball. When you know how to play well, the ball feels soft to you, which is fascinating because you interact with the ball only through your club. Being able to push the ball to the point that it feels soft is one of the most addictive experiences in the world. And this is what gets people to keep coming back to it, including me.
Teaching is different from playing. How did that transition come about?
When COVID hit, our family business slowed down drastically. I had already started training again, and now I had more time to concentrate on bettering my game. That is when my parents suggested that I make a career of this. The challenge was to get the necessary certification in place since you can’t teach the game without a
licence. I played professional tournaments to qualify as an instructor and turned pro at the start of this year. I am humbled to have so many young and old students who enthusiastically train under me now. I intend to help each of them unlock their personal association with the game.
Can you delve deeper into the training process you take with each individual? How is training adults different from teaching kids?
The most important thing to learn in golf is your swing. It’s easier to train children since they are more flexible and don’t have a set practice in place. With adults, though, more often than not, I have to work around their existing swing. So, it is more of a re-learning process in adults. However, the instruction process is individualistic, and I design it per the student I am training.
What is the most important lesson that you have learnt in the course? What are the challenges associated with arriving at this lesson?
As I mentioned earlier, my coach was my biggest inspiration, and I live by one of the things he taught me – “Take it one shot at a time.” It has helped me face all practical challenges. For example, the first day of my professional tournament, the one I took to qualify as an instructor, was extremely challenging. But things eased out on the second day and the reason I got there was because I managed to hold myself together
despite my poor performance on the first.
I think coping with his loss has been one of the most difficult things I have faced. But now, when I train others in the techniques I learnt from him, I hope he is happy looking at me from wherever he is.
Traditionally posed as a game for people over a certain age, golf has become popular among the Gen Z demographic. What has caused this shift?
Golf has now become cooler. It’s always been a gentleman’s game, full of etiquette, but people are now discovering the class that the game comes with, and the room it allows you to socialise with others. The experience is intriguing and inviting; my vision is to unleash a fondness for the game in whoever I train.
Thailand is increasingly becoming a hub for all things golf, with top-rated courses for those who want to learn. What do you think?
There are two reasons responsible for this. First, the weather in Thailand is golf-friendly, unlike in Europe or the States, where you can only play in the summer months. Secondly, playing golf is much cheaper here in Thailand than in other countries like Japan.
Finally, what are some of the strengths that one must develop to better one’s game? What is the one piece of advice that you would like to give aspiring golfers?
Patience is crucial in any sport. No one can become great at a game in one day. So, you’ve got to keep at it. As for advice, I think it helps if you develop goldfish memory about your performance. You don’t have to get bogged down by a bad shot or too excited about a great one. Focus on the shot at hand without being nervous or arrogant. This applies to golf, and to life!