01 April 2020: The first time I saw Shiv Kapur, he was walking back to the clubhouse after a pleasant round of practice in the familiar climes of the Delhi Golf Club. As I approached the genial Indian golfer, he flashed the brightest smile possible to a stranger as I shook hands and introduced myself to him. It is an image that has stuck in my head, so much so that I think of happiness first before golf, when I think of Shiv.
But then making a lasting impression has come with the territory for the man who turned 38 this February. Kapur made a grand entry to the big stage with a memorable piece of Gold from the 2002 Asian Games. Since then he has numerous top 10s and five professional victories against his name. But don’t be surprised if he ever told you that the victory he has coveted most in his life was winning the heart of Maya, his childhood friend and wife.
Kapur is happy for the break, spending some quality time in the idyllic setting of Dehradun with Maya and daughter Veda. “Luckily we are all doing fine and staying healthy,” said Shiv, speaking from his home in the hills. “I am with Maya and Veda in Dehradun enjoying some solitude in the foothills, while my parents and the rest of the family are in Delhi.”
“Personally it has been great. I get to do what I miss most on tour, stay home with my family and get to spend some quality time with Veda doing lots of fun activities. It has been an amazing few days so far.”
When he won the Volvo Masters of Asia in 2005, the burden of expectations increased on the shoulders of the Purdue University graduate. He had several good finishes along the way, but victory eluded him for eight torturous years, till he won twice on the Challenger Tour in 2013. But he has always packed some perseverance in his bag. And he received some much-needed mid-career boost when he won twice again in 2017, this time on the Asian Tour. One of those victories came at the Panasonic Open India in the heart of Delhi, something Shiv had cherished for a long time.
Shiv seemed to be putting his game together in an effort to qualify for the Olympics when the spread of Corona Virus threw in a dampening break. Shiv was getting on a roll in recent months – he collected three top tens to finish 2019 on a high including back to back runner up finishes in the Thailand Open and Panasonic Open India last year. A T18 in the Hong Kong Open and a good finish in Malaysia suggested that Shiv was getting his game in order just in time for a good summer run.
“Professionally it has not been ideal and the forced break has come at a usually very busy time of the season,” he told me. “And with a complete lockdown in place, I don’t have access to any sort of golf, so at the moment it’s just home fitness to keep myself going.” For a man who is fond of his food and dotes on a baby daughter, you know how well that is going to roll. But we shall let him take the benefit on that one. Maybe, we can trust his little daughter to give him a decent workout.
“With a 2.5-year-old the day goes by without you realising it. She keeps both Maya and me on our toes and we are doing several different activities with her in the garden and around the house all day,” he acknowledged. “I’m actually more tired at the end of the day now, than playing a round of golf ?.” I think we should throw in a scale and challenge Shiv to give us the before-after readings, but then I am not his personal trainer. So, I am not sure he will take us up on that and allow us on his case.
“The self-isolation forces you to introspect and realise what is important and that family really takes precedence over everything else,” reminded Shiv on a more philosophical note. “I think once all this is over we will all really appreciate how lucky we are to be playing golf for a living.” There is no denying how true those words are, not just to him, but for almost anyone that has the privilege of lifting a golf club.
I persisted that he dwell some more on how this break might influence his game, at a time when it seemed to be gaining a good shape. “It is hard to say yet, depending on how long the lockdown continues and the travel restrictions thereafter. But I think it will take all of us a few weeks to find our feet once we restart a somewhat normal life.”
Golf is a tight-knit community and it is hard to separate people that get used to each other, spending far more time than they might with their own families. “Yes I’m in touch with a few of them, the mutual interests are usually discussing how poorly our portfolios are doing in this economic environment,” said a candid Kapur. “And since we have a lot of free time on our hands we are playing pranks on each other, just ask Khalin Joshi ?.” I will take him up on that.