Afghanistan Golf Team Makes Debut in Asia

Now there's a headline I never thought I would read, let alone write. In a country that housed golf courses littered with landmines no more than a decade ago (literally), Afghanistan has fielded a competitive golf team for the Asian Games, according to a recent article on PGATour.com:

GUANGZHOU, China (AP) -- For Hashmatullah Sarwaree and Ali Ahmad Fazel, hazards aren't a major concern on the golf course. After all, their club in Kabul was cleared of land mines after the fall of the Taliban regime.

That's probably why scores that were more than 130 strokes behind the winners in the four-round Asian Games competition weren't a major concern for the pair from Afghanistan, who finished third-to-last and last on the lush Dragon Lake Golf Course outside of Guangzhou on Saturday.

For 10 hours a day, pretty much every day, Sarwaree drives a taxi on the chaotic streets of Kabul.

That's only his job, though. His heart belongs to golf.

"I just like golf," he told The Associated Press. "I want to do it all the time."

Golf in Afghanistan is a different brand than most people are used to. First off, the greens are made of sand and oil, which actually makes them brown but keeps them from blowing away. And there's only one course in the whole country.

"It's totally different here," Sarwaree said after finishing his fourth round at Guangzhou in his country's first try at golf in the Asian Games, a regional version of the Olympics that is held once every four years. "It's so big, and there's grass!"

Unaccustomed to teeing off on anything but sand or gravel, Sarwaree and Fazel finished at the bottom of the rankings -- Sarwaree was 73rd out of 75 men at 116 over. Fazel was last, with a 179-over par total of 467.

Golf truly continues to grow as a global sport powerhouse, even in the most unlikely places on the planet.