New Delhi: The Avantha Masters makes a return to the DLF Golf and Country Club this week with a fresh wave of optimism amongst fans and players on the prospect of celebrating another home winner. Tri-sanctioned by the PGTI, Asian Tour and European Tour, the Avantha Masters will see participation from top Indian golfers including SSP Chowrasia, Jeev Milkha Singh, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Chirag Kumar and Himmat Singh Rai.
Avantha masters holds a significant place on the Asian Tour Schedule as it is the richest tournament in India, thanks to its lucrative €1.8 million (approximately US$2.4 million) prize fund on offer. It also enjoys the honour of being the first of the four events scheduled to be played in India this season.
While the region’s finest golfers can expect a rich bounty in excess of over US$4 million on offer from these four events, it will be another grand opportunity for India to showcase its rich golfing talent to the world.
From Jeev Milkha Singh to Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur and Arjun Atwal, these household names have collectively brought home the message that India can become a powerhouse in the world of golf.
The stalwarts have proven that apart from cricket, they can also give their country something to cheer about in golf as well.
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.
Gaurav Ghei, Feroz Ali, Shiv Kapur, S.S.P. Chowrasia, C. Muniyappa and Gaganjeet Bhullar have also all added their names onto the Asian Tour’s Roll of Honour with their respective victories.
“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.
Lately, it is the likes of Anirban Lahiri who have revelled in his home victory at the Panasonic Open India, Himmat Rai, who broke through in a big way with his maiden win at the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic and Chiragh Kumar, who burst into the scene when he charged into contention at the Hero Indian Open at the halfway stage who are lighting up the scene.
“Playing Asian Tour events in Asia create great playing opportunities for our players and it gives us confidence as well. We’ve got a strong PGTI Tour which is tremendous and we’ve sponsors support as well. There are many new courses being built in India now and over the next few years and this will help the game to grow even further,” said Bhullar who was won twice on the Asian Tour.
Chowrasia’s final day charge for the Avantha Masters title last year rallied the home crowd together as he surmounted a late charge to win his second Asian Tout title.
His spell-binding performances where he pipped England’s Robert Coles for his second Asian Tour title, kept the nation together where they all cheered as one for their local hero- one whom they can proudly call their own.
As the best players from the game step up to the tee at the DLF Golf and Country Club, it will be anyone’s guess as to who will eventually emerge victorious on the closing 18th green on Sunday afternoon.
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.