07 January 2018: As Indian golf reached Kolkata for a final celebration at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the city of joy had one more feather to add to its rich golf heritage. Viraj Madappa, all but assured of honours, sealed the Rookie of the year honours with a stellar fourth place finish in the PGTI Tour Championship. The 20 year old collected earnings in excess of 23 lakh rupees.
Viraj Madappa is not your usual tour professional. The quiet Kolkata boy has been playing golf since he was 8, and now at the age of 20 finishes his first season on the domestic tour 9th on the Money list, in the process beating Chandigarh’s Karandeep Kochhar to win Rookie of the year.
In a 13-event-campaign, Madappa finished 11 events in the money including six top-five finishes. At various points in the week Golfing Indian caught up with the former Indian Amateur Number 1.
After graduating school, Viraj gained admission at Texas A&M in the States to study a Bachelor of Arts degree while playing on the college golf team. It was expected because growing up, he was known to have always maintained a balance between study and play. “I lasted one semester,” says Madappa.
“There was too much going on, could not focus on one thing at the University. So after much deliberation with my parents, I decided to come back here, turn professional and play selective events in the first half of the year.”
The 2017 PGTI Q-school saw amateurs play well and finish in the top-39 to get their full cards, Viraj included.
After a few 30-place finishes and a missed cut, he was on his way with a pair of fourth places in Pune and Ahmedabad. “I remember my first ever shot as a professional. I was so nervous, I couldn’t feel my hands, hit the tee ball far right!” He takes Himmat Rai’s and Gaurav Ghei’s names when talking about playing events with people he grew up watching and admiring.
The usually articulate Coorgi boy credits work with coaches Indrajit Bhalotia and Tarun Sardesai for his success both at home and abroad that dates back to his junior days. “A two-month break in the season helped as I made adjustments to my golf swing to preserve my back” adds Madappa.
Speaking from Kolkata, Bhalotia who worked with the young golfer for eight years said: “Viraj is a complete golfer whose has no weaknesses.”
“Today he is a very consistent ball-striker who is ready to compete. Viraj is a natural born player. I’ve taken forward Indrajit’s work and we’ll see what it goes from here on.” adds Sardesai on a telephonic conversation from Bangalore.
His next step is to try and keep up with Kolkata’s golfing heritage by following in the footsteps of Arjun Atwal, SSP Chawrasia, and Rahil Gangjee by earning a full-time card on the Asian Tour.
“Everyone looks out for each other on tour. It is a nice feeling when you have that kind of support,” says Madappa who finished T4 at the Tour Championship, good enough to see him through to the final stage of qualifying at the AT Q-school, whose first stage is currently ongoing.