Vincent’s dad, who was from Holland and worked for the UN in Dhaka, had told Mansur about a sport called “golf” the previous day and invited him to join them at Dhaka’s main golf course.
“It’s like cricket,” Vincent’s father told Mansur. “You just whack the ball.”
The first time he ever swung a golf club—without stretching or taking any practice swings—Mansur crushed the ball straight down the middle of the driving range. The caddies stared in awe at this kid wielding a nine iron the size of his entire body and Vincent’s dad thought it must be beginner’s luck. But then he did it again.
Mansur was a natural and remembers thinking how easy the game was, but after that outing he didn’t touch a golf club again for two years.
“People don’t know about golf there at all,” Mansur said of Bangladesh. “They play cricket, soccer, some basketball, badminton. Golf is not a big thing there.”
Golf became an afterthought over the next couple of years. When he wasn’t busy with schoolwork, Mansur would play soccer and cricket with friends, much to his mother’s dismay. She worried about her skinny son getting hurt and wanted him to focus on his studies rather than sports. Even at a young age, though, Mansur knew he needed to find a competitive outlet.
So they reached a compromise: Mansur could still play a sport, but he would have to trade in the cleats and cricket bat for a set of golf clubs.
As Mansur learned more about the game and its history, he fell in love with the sport and decided he would one day move to America and become a professional golfer. The problem was that he still lived in Bangladesh.
With a population of more than 150 million people crammed into an area smaller than Iowa, Bangladesh is among the most densely populated countries in the world. The capital city, Dhaka, is one the planet’s largest megacities and has some of the most extreme over-population, pollution, corruption and poverty in Southeast Asia.
Mansur’s father owns an IT firm, his grandfather owns a major textile company, and attending an international school in Dhaka with children of diplomats and expats, he was largely insulated from the poverty around him.
Still, he lacked the family background and connections necessary to play golf in Bangladesh. Mansur was devastated.
“If you come from a military background, that’s the biggest advantage you can get in Bangladesh,” Mansur said. “Because the army was the first to introduce golf in Bangladesh, they got first priority, second priority and third priority.”
The average annual per-capita income in Bangladesh is $1,800, but it costs the equivalent of $17 to play 18 holes during the week and $33 on weekends for non-military golfers at Kurmitola Golf Club, Dhaka’s main course. For military personnel, however, the cost for 18 holes any day of the week is $3.85.
“Getting into the tournaments was more difficult than actually winning,” Mansur said about the obstacles he faced in Dhaka. “I had to write my name on the waiting list, which started two months before the tournament. If they choose you, you can play in the tournament. If they don’t choose you, you have to wait for another tournament. The army officers’ sons and daughters used to write their name the day of the tournament and they would get in.”
Entering tournaments was tough, but getting a golf coach was out of the question. Prominent coaches from Europe would come to Bangladesh, but Mansur had little hope of meeting them.
“Even after writing my name two months prior to the coaching, I did not get the chance,” Mansur remembered with frustration. “Instead, they were choosing the son of an Army officer or someone related to an Army officer.”
Mansur had had enough. After coming home in tears and pleading with his parents to convince the coaches and organizers to let him learn, he had a realization that has shaped his entire life.
“You have to go and get it. You cannot wait for someone to help you,” he realized. “Screw this. I don’t want to wait for my name to get called.”
Articles from Golf.com took the place of proper coaching and a powerful combination of determination and patience developed when opportunities were hard to come by.
“(Golf.com) had all the tips like how to hold the club, how to swing, how to putt, how to drive, everything,” Mansur recalled. “So after a week of just whacking balls on the driving range by myself, I thought I was ready to play a tournament. My third tournament, I actually won. And after that, I won six tournaments straight.”