Incredible India stands proud in Asian golf scene

jeev-250New Delhi: They don’t call it Incredible India without a reason.

And rightly so as the golfing world has witnessed many incredible results and breakthrough performances from Indian golf stars.

Through the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur, Arjun Atwal, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri, these household names have collectively brought home the message that India is highly regarded as a powerhouse in the world of golf.

These golfing stalwarts have proven that apart from cricket, they can also give their country plenty to cheer about through their success on the Asian Tour and on the international stage.

A significant piece of sporting history for India came in 2010 when Atwal became the first Indian to win on the US PGA Tour.

That famous victory highlighted the growing strength of the professional game in India which has risen tremendously in recent years, thanks largely to impact of the Asian Tour working closely with the PGTI.

“My first Q-school was in 1995 and just to learn how to make cuts and be in contention and finally win, all those I learnt on the Asian Tour,” said Atwal, who is now based in Florida.

“Those were the best years of my life. I still say it. I had so much fun and everyone are so close. You still see the guys out here, it’s great,” added Atwal.

India holds the proud record of having produced the most number of Asian Tour Order of Merit champions, through Atwal in 2003, Singh in 2006 and 2008 and Randhawa, the country’s first Asian number one in 2002.

They have not only boosted the profile and popularity of golf in India, but have also inspired fellow Indian professional golfers to shoot for their own glory.

“There is a lot of depth in Indian golf as new players are hitting the Asian Tour,” said Kapur as he reflected on the growing strength of the game in his country.

Today, it’s the likes of younger generation of players like Gaganjeet Bhullar, Himmat Rai and Anirban Lahiri, all winners on the Asian Tour, who are poised to carry on India’s proud tradition in golf.

Bhullar underlined his growing credentials when he won twice in Chinese Taipei and Macau and posted six other top-10s to end 2012 in a career high fifth place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

“Mentally I improved as a player when I entered the Asian Tour. When you keep playing more tournaments, you will improve mentally. I struggled earlier in my career when I played with the big players. Watching Lee Westwood and seeing Ernie Els on the putting green was a huge motivation and I went on to the next level with my Asian Tour wins,” said Bhullar, a four-time Asian Tour winner.

Lahiri, a two-time Asian Tour winner, is another player whose career has been on the upswing.

He finished the 2012 season in 10th place on the Order of Merit having enjoyed his second win on home soil and four other top-10s.

“You got to keep pushing yourself (on the Asian Tour). Every time you achieve a short term goal, you have to set new targets for yourself. The Asian Tour is one of the best places to do that,” said Lahiri, who propelled into the global spotlight when he finished tied-31st at the British Open with his major debut highlighted by a hole-in-one during his third round.

As the Avantha Masters makes it return to the Asian Tour Schedule for the fourth consecutive year, the €1.8million showpiece which is tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and PGTI promises to thrill again.

The prestigious tournament will be part of the Asian Tour’s milestone 10th season celebrations in 2013.

After all, it has welcomed a home grown winner in S.S.P. Chowrasia, witnessed the emergence of young talents and seen the maiden breakthrough of our Asian Tour member, Jbe Kruger of South Africa last year.

While it will be an intriguing battle between the best players from the Asian Tour, European Tour and PGTI, Singh is confident that the local contingent can hold their own especially with the emergence of young guns from India.

“The boys are doing well. There are so many good players coming out from India and it is good for the game. It is a global sport and these guys are hungry and that’s the beauty about it. I’m happy to see Indian golf going in the right direction,” said Singh, Asia’s number one in 2006 and 2008.

It remains to be seen who will be the last man standing on the 18th green on the final day.

But for one, India’s already the winner for it has provided the country with a wonderful spectacle of golf that everyone is now talking about.