05 April 2020: If Rashid Khan were conducting an orchestra, the coronavirus put the lights out, just when he was about to find a final crescendo for the night. I have followed the golfer closely for several years, yet it was only during the last year that I discovered a shimmering spark of resilience that shines bright in this young warrior. Pitted against the daunting machinery of powerful men usurping a common good for private luxury, Rashid may have fought in vain. But he took that energy to the course producing a stunning series of consistent results on the course to catapult himself to the top of the heap in Indian golf.
Since the Golconda Masters in 2019, Khan has collected two victories and seventeen top 10s in 26 events. In those remaining nine tournaments, he was top twenty in four of them. The streak has allowed him to from 867 in February 2019 to his current ranking of world number 185. With only three months to go before the cut-off date to the Olympics, Khan nearly had the ticket to Tokyo in his pocket. Udayan Mane, another man on a hot streak, is the second-best Indian at the moment at 223rd in the world. Mane won three straight tournaments on the PGA TOUR before losing a six-hole playoff to Aadil Bedi in the Bengal Open recently.
However, the two of them will have to now wait for the action to resume and remain focused through June of next year to retain a shot at representing India in the Olympics. Khan assures me that he is unfazed by the break and will continue to work hard and stay prepared for the resumption of golf.
“We are all at home in Delhi, except for my father, who is in Lucknow,” Khan told me. “The break has been good for me as it has helped me get some much-needed sleep. I start my days at 0630am and sometimes that has meant only a few hours of sleep. Now that I am home, I have been able to sleep for long hours and help my body recover from an intense phase of golf.”
But the uncertainty around golf remains and Khan is biding his time. “I am not much of a range player. I like to play the course, either 9 or 18 and I miss that at this time. But this is a tough time for everyone, not just athletes. We have to support the battle against Corona by staying home. I will work hard again as soon as the situation permits us to play golf.”
Meanwhile, there is no time to get bored. “I am keeping very busy – making experiments in the kitchen, playing with my nephew who is an entertainer, connecting with friends through video and playing games on the PS4. My nephew is hanging around me most of the time and it is a lot of fun being with him.
At the moment, Khan sees no concerns about how this unexpected break might affect his game. “I don’t think it will affect so much but will get to know once I start playing again,” he said. It is something I’m not worried about at the moment. I am more concerned and worried about people who are affected by the disease and are struggling for healthcare.”
“We also need to worry about people that do not seem appreciate the gravity of the situation and are roaming the streets and meeting people. I hope they all stay at home and practice social distancing. I hope everything returns to normal soon so that we can all get out of the house, and work to make lives better this time around.”
The golf community in Delhi offers me some solace too. “I am very close to Kapil, Wasim, Rudresh, Pawan and Ashok Kumar. Golf is strictly prohibited when we all have conversations. Friends know how to take your case and this makes our chat very interesting and fun. Everything under the Sun but golf.”