30 June 2021: The Indian Golf Union, custodians of the game in India, have sent in their nominations to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The IGU made three nominations for the 2021 Arjuna Award and one to the Khel Ratna. Shubhankar Sharma could become the first golfer to receive the Khel Ratna, if the nomination is accepted. Udayan Mane, Rashid Khan and Diksha Dagar are aspirants to the Arjuna Award.
Dagar could become just the fifth woman to receive the Arjuna Award, following Aditi Ashok, who won the award in 2020. The 20-year-old was T4 in the Czech Ladies Open last week. She was just 18 when she won the SA Women’s Open for her first big success on the international stage. Dagar also enjoyed top ten finishes in the NSW Womens Open in 2019 on the ALPG and the Women’s NSW Open in 2020 on the Ladies European Tour.
Anjani Desai was the first Indian woman to receive the Arjuna Award, when she was recognised in 1972. Sita Rawlley won the award in 1977 while the Nonita Lall won it exactly ten years later. It has taken a long time since then for a woman awardee in golf, before Aditi finally broke the drought in 2020.
“Shubhankar was leading the European Tour standings and played some exceptional golf during the past four years. He had a great run during which he won twice on the European Tour, achieved a top ten in a WGC event and played the Open and Masters as well. He deserves the recognition for all his performances on the international circuit,” said Major General Bibhuti Bhushan, the Director General of the IGU.
“Rashid has been number one in India for multiple years and should have been in the Olympics too, but for Covid. He was well inside the top 60 last year, but unfortunately there has been very little golf in India and almost nothing in Asia since then. He richly deserves to be recognised for his consistent performances.”
“SImilarly, Udayan has been playing some excellent golf too and is now confirmed to play in the Olympics alongside Anirban Lahiri. It is a great achievement for the young golfer. He has won multiple titles on the PGTI Tour and has done well in Asia too.”
Mane is all set to join Anirban Lahiri at the Tokyo Olympics, with the withdrawal of Emiliano Grillo helping the golfer from Bengaluru make the field. He has been on a roll since the Kensville Open in 2019. Mane collected three top tens and four victories on the PGTI Tour, establishing himself among top tier of Indian golfers.
“Diksha is the third reserve on the Olympic rankings, with a chance of joining Aditi. She has been playing well and carries an inspiring story, working to the top of women’s golf despite being challenged by her hearing capabilities. Her victory in Johannesburg on the Ladies European Tour and continued performances on the international circuit maker her an easy nomination to the award,” added General Bhushan.
On the men’s side there have been 17 winners of the Arjuna Award, starting with P G (Biloo) Sethi in 1961, Ashok Malik (1963), R K Pitamber (1967), Vikramjit Singh (1973), S K Jamshed (1975), Lakshman Singh (1982), Ali Sher (1991), Amit Luthra (1996), Harmeet Kahlon (1997), Jeev Milkha Singh (1999), Shiv Kapur (2002), Jyoti Randhawa (2004), Arjun Atwal (2007), Gaganjeet Bhullar (2013), Anirban Lahiri (2014), SSP Chawrasia (2017) and Shubhankar Sharma (2018).
Mane is third on the order for merit for the combined 2020-21 ratings on the PGTI Tour. He has eight top tens and five victories on the PGTI Tour since 2017.
Rashid has accumulated 30 top tens and eleven victories on the PGTI and Asian Tours. He was inside the top twenty in two of the last three events on the PGTI Tour in 2021 and finished in third place in the other one. But the lack of golf has hurt the 30 year old, who rose to 176th in the world in the run-up to Tokyo in 2020.
An Arjuna Award would be a fair consolation for a man whose chances were hurt by the pandemic.