The monument is finally coming into sight and it is one to behold. Thousands of artisans, in the guise of golfers, have toiled for over a century trying to craft an identity for Indian golf. It is as if 2016 was meant to be the year in which that identity finally took shape.
A country needing to satisfy itself with participation and high finishes has finally acquired a taste for winning and doing so consistently. SSP Chawrasia, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Aditi Ashok have all won twice each on their respective international tours. Indian golf fans aren’t used to such prolific ways, but they have barely had the time to digest the bounty that has come their way.
Anirban Lahiri moved the post first with a spectacular top five finish in the PGA Championship last year. In his rookie season on the PGA TOUR, Anirban also very nearly claimed his maiden PGA TOUR title before slipping back at the very end. After his success in 2015, many expected this season to be all about the golfer from Bengaluru.
But then it seems Anirban’s exploits have energized the entire professional golfer community in India. A new belief seems to have gripped our golfers and it is showing in the results this season.
After years of making do with qualification to the majors, Anirban Lahiri has raised the bar with his performance at the PGA Championship and his stated ambition to be the first Indian winner of a major tournament.
Chawrasia has been through the rough and tumble. He has spent all his life looking to exorcise the Indian Open ghosts that haunted him. Chawrasia was a four time runner up before finally getting the monkey off his back this year.
The golfer from Kolkata has since won the Manila Masters too, scoring the first ever victory outside India. There is no doubt that Chawrasia is a new man energized by the confidence that comes from winning.
Gaganjeet Bhullar was marked for a big career in golf even as a young man. Five Asian Tour victories even before the age of 24 validated those expectations. But injury and loss of form consigned Bhullar into oblivion through a three year drought.
The 27 year old has ended the drought in style – winning handsomely in Korea and Indonesia. It will be very interesting to see where he travels from here on the strength of those victories.
Aditi Ashok has been nothing short of a revelation. The young golfer decided to turn professional late last year and the results has been spectacular. Even without a victory, four straight top 10 finishes put her firmly in the hunt among rookies.
But back-to-back victories in India and Qatar have not just solidified her grasp over the rookie honours, but have also catapulted her to third on the LET Order of Merit.
There have been good results elsewhere too – Jeev Milkha Singh came second in Indonesia underlining his commitment to rediscover lost form late in his career.
Khalin Joshi, Chiragh Kumar, Rashid Khan, Shiv Kapur and Jyoti Randhawa have also shown some good golf this season. It is not going to be long before our list of winners is extended to strengthen the club.
The tide has turned in Indian golf and 2016 will always be remembered as the watershed season that propelled the game into an all together new orbit.