PGA pursuit proves Kishen is a real all-rounder

PGA pursuit proves Kishen is a real all-rounder

24/11/2023

Kishen Velani is the latest former first-class cricketer to pursue a fresh career path as a PGA professional.

The right-handed batsman spent several seasons playing for Essex and also represented England at Under-19s level.

But this autumn he has started on the PGA Foundation degree course, following in the footsteps of ex-Somerset all-rounder Peter Trego.

Velani is a trainee based at Wanstead Golf Club where, rather neatly, he is working for head PGA pro Dave Hawkins, the man who taught him as a beginner more than 20 years ago.

“I played cricket from when I was about three or four,” explained the 29-year-old. “My dad got me into cricket and I joined Wanstead Cricket Club. Then, because the golf club goes around the cricket club, I just told my dad I wanted to try out golf. So, I was about five or six and came over here and had a few lessons with Dave.”

Velani became a junior member at the club, playing all the way through until his early teens when his cricketing excellence came to the fore. He earned international recognition as a 16-year-old, playing for England Under-19s v South Africa at Taunton.

During his time in the national set-up his peers included future England stars such as Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes and Dom Sibley. And, of course, one of his county team-mates at Essex was a certain left-hander by the name of Sir Alistair Cook! The golf bug continued to tick over in the background before taking off again after his release from Essex in late 2017.

Velani said: “One of my mates had just come out of university and he was like, ‘Why don’t we join the golf club again?’ Then he got a job two weeks later – that was me, stuck on my own! I thought, ‘I’ll just go and play golf for the whole winter. So I got back into it, loved it again and kind have just been playing ever since really, while still trying to do my cricket stuff.”

Serious injury and Covid didn’t help when it came to possible routes back into cricket, although Velani trialled with several counties. Indeed, in 2022 he spent some time with Derbyshire, as well as playing at minor counties-level with Hertfordshire.

But early in the summer of 2023, he made a decision to target a career in golf instead. His handicap, which had majorly improved in his post-Essex days, was down to as low as “plus-three, plus-four”. Also he had already been working in the shop at Wanstead and found that golf club life was enjoyable.

For Velani, the time was right for him to commit to the PGA Foundation course. And while being a student again is a bit of a change, the early signs are positive.

He said: “I haven’t studied for 11 years almost, so it’s different but I’m actually looking forward to it. I’m interested and want to learn. If I wasn’t interested, I probably wouldn’t be as committed to it. But I am. I’m putting the time and effort in. I’ve actually just been in the clubhouse – I’ve got my laptop – doing one of the modules!”

Qualifying is some way down the road yet, but Velani already has an idea of which directions he wants to go with his new life.

He said: “At the moment I’m looking more into coaching than anything else. I still want to play – maybe do some of the Order of Merit and Essex PGA stuff. I don’t want to stop playing but I’m more interested in the whole coaching side of it.”

He couldn’t ask for a better mentor in that respect than Dave Hawkins. And Velani knows how fortunate he is to be working alongside Wanstead’s longstanding head PGA professional.

“Dave has been great – very helpful in my time trying to make it as a cricketer. Now, he has probably been even more helpful, so I’m very grateful.

“Wanstead Golf Club itself had a very big impact on me when I re-joined and definitely played a major role in me continuing to play golf.” 

As for his past, Velani indicates that he didn’t quite fulfil his potential and that perhaps the bat-and-ball chapter of his life could have gone on for longer. “I always think I should have done more than I achieved,” he said.

On the flip side, there’s a heck of a lot for him to be proud of: county championship, one-day and T20 cricket for Essex – and, of course, England age-group selection.

Velani’s ongoing passion for the sport will continue alongside his new day job. Next summer he’ll once again be pulling on the whites for Wanstead.

“I don’t think I could stop playing, to be honest,” he said. “I really enjoy my cricket.”

And that’s great to hear.

Inspired? CLICK HERE to find out more about a career in golf with The PGA.

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