Anand Datla

Indian golf is set for a bold new era

Indian golf hasn't had it this good ever. A deep pool of talent and a bunch in golfers in contention every week augurs well. Chikkarangappa and Shiv Kapur played some exceptional golf this past week.

Chikkarangappa was brilliant at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open

Albany (Bahamas), 02 December 2018: Brave, bold and brash. The mood surrounding Indian golf was perhaps never any better. Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal might have shown our hungry fans greater peaks, but the two Indian legends were exceptional stars. The current generation of golfers is certainly the most well distributed, perhaps as it may never have been for golf in India.

Playing the second shot at the 72nd hole in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, Chikkarangappa showed the kind of brave new form that represents the millennial face of our golf. The 25-year-old was trailing by two from Kurt Kitayama, level with Mathieu Pavon in the second place.

But as he took his swing, all Chikka was aiming for was a shot at an eagle, trying to give himself the best possible chance to contend for the craftily designed trophy.

Considering that he was only ranked 78th on the Asian Tour order of merit, with his 2019 future far from secure, it was a moment that underlined the wave of confidence that is sweeping golf in India.

As it is the move did not pay off. Chikka had to work from fringe to fringe, as he attacked the pin with vigour. The man from Bengaluru made a tricky final putt to make par and sign off in a tie for second.

Shiv Kapur played brilliant golf at the Queen's Cup
Shiv Kapur played brilliant golf at the Queen’s Cup

Many miles away, Shiv Kapur, nearly into the second innings of his promising golfing life was showing some grit and determination. The suave golfer from Delhi played some of his best weekend golf in recent memory, producing scores of 65 and 67 to secure a tie for sixth place in the Queen’s Cup.

After a flawless effort on Saturday, Shiv wasn’t in the best of touch on the tee box. The 2002 Asian Games gold medalist was not even making 60% of the fairways, reaching the greens only twice every three attempts.

Yet he only needed 27 putts, as he brought out his scrambling boots. Shiv used his chipping and putting skills to great effect to optimize the result on Sunday. It was a vintage performance, built on confidence and brazen ambition.

Neither man won the title, but hey would do well to carry the mindset and execution skills on their bags to produce a memorable 2019 season.

The year has clearly belonged to Shubhankar Sharma, who is on the verge of making it a memorable double. After securing the rookie of the year on the European Tour, he is assured now of winning the Asian Tour order of merit.

Gaganjeet Bhullar with the spoils in Fiji
Gaganjeet Bhullar with the spoils in Fiji

But the celebration in Indian golf is no longer about an individual. The distribution of success across a broad spectrum of players and the depth of talent are reasons for exuberant faith. Rahil Gangjee ended a lengthy drought with a victory on the Japanese Golf Tour. The chirpy man from Kolkata even qualified for the season-ending JT Cup, an event that features the best 30 players on the JGTO. Commendable effort.

Gaganjeet Bhullar continues to sparkle. Even though he wasted a promising start in the Australia PGA Championship, he has been a picture of consistency in 2018. The scent of more success is walking with him everywhere he travels.

As usual, Anirban Lahiri is firmly settled on the biggest golfing tour. Even though he is suffering from a bit of a dip in form recently, you can count on him to step up in the summer to have yet another good season on the PGA TOUR.

Credit is due to Anirban for raising the aspirations of Indian golfers, young and old. Ever since he made his way to the top tour in 2015-16, Indian golf has been gaining in strength and vigour.

The emergence of Karandeep Kochhar and Kshitij Naveed Kaul presents an interesting dimension. The two teenagers are full of commitment and plenty of pluck. They have both shown us some steel and are feeling comfortable mixing it with the big boys. Their determination is a good omen for Indian golf.

The PGTI Tour is open now and after a series of successful runs this year, we can expect a stronger circuit and greater excitement in 2019.

Brace yourself for some Sunday surges, do just enough to own the couch, pour the coffee in the jug and keep your hands warm to celebrate the deeds of our Indian golfers. They are coming alright, and they are coming in numbers.


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