CHENNAI: India’s latest golf sensation, Shubhankar Sharma, believes winning an Olympic medal would change the profile of the sport in the country. “The public will relate to an Olympic medal than a victory at the Masters or an European Tour event. Like it happened in badminton, a medal from the Games will have a bigger impact in the country. But for a professional golfer, winning a Major is the ultimate,” said Shubhankar who is riding on a crest of a wave after his recent exploits at the World Golf Championship in Mexico where he led a star-studded field before finishing tied ninth.
It’s no surprise that the 21-year-old, too, has an Olympic dream like many other sportspersons. “I am looking forward to the 2020 Olympics, although it is still a long way away. Representing the country at the Olympics would be a dream-come-true. A medal will be even better. First, I have to make it there and keep playing well. I think, the 2020 Games will come at the right phase for me. I will be mature enough to have played at the highest level. I will probably play on the PGA Tour for a few weeks and hopefully I can make my card,” added Shubhankar.
Even though the country has been consistently producing world-class players, golf hasn’t really appealed to the masses. The 21-year-old feels golf can shed the tag of an elite sport only with help of the government. “Now that it’s an Olympic sport, the government needs to do more. We need more ranges and more funding. We have time and again shown that we can produce world-class players in India such as Anirban Lahiri and Arjun Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh et al. There is no dearth of talent in the country. We just need more support and golf needs to be introduced in schools. I believe we will have a Major champion very soon,” he added. Shubhankar also spoke on a variety of subjects during a golf clinic organised by Take Solutions.
Cut his golf tooth at Ooty (Tamil Nadu)
I started when I was seven years old. My dad, an army officer, was posted in Wellington (Ooty, Tamil Nadu). That was the first time I went to a golf course. Nobody in my family had played it before. I got hooked to the game immediately. I was there for one year and then my dad had to move to Bhopal. In 2004, I played my first tournament. I never really looked back since then.
A big Barcelona fan
I follow a lot of other sports; not much cricket though. I don’t really follow IPL. I am a big fan of football. Barcelona are my favourite team. And, I follow their matches as much as I can. There are only two teams -- Barcelona and Real Madrid -- who play well in La Liga! The champions league is a lot more exciting. Even when I went to Barcelona last year, I made it a point that I went to Camp Nou. I was there for the entire day. Now that I will be playing on the European Tour, I will probably go and see a few EPL matches.
Would have become a tennis player if not for golf
One sportsman I would love to meet is Roger Federer. He is an absolute legend. I would also like to meet Messi and Ronaldo, but I like the individual sport more.
I think I would have become a tennis player if not a golfer. I have been a big fan of Wimbledon and I hardly miss watching it on TV.
High regard for Tiger
Within two hours after I returned from the Mexico event, I got a call from the organisers of the Augusta Masters. It was a great moment. It’s the ultimate destination golfers dream of. I was really happy as it was unexpected. You can equate this to getting into the Olympics. I have watched the Masters on TV for so many years and going there will be a great feeling. Tiger Woods will be playing this year. I have never played with him, but I met him when he came to India. The tournament will be much bigger with Tiger’s presence. Tiger is like the God in our eyes. It’s great for the game that he is coming back. He shot four-under yesterday at Arnold Palmer. His game looks solid. I hope he wins soon. Tiger pulls in crowds like no one else. The TRPs shoot up when he enters a tournament.
He puts pressure on himself
Since I am not a cricketer, I don’t think people expects me to do well everywhere! There are no expectations from fans. Any expectation is just from myself. I know I am playing well, but at the same time I keep in mind that golf is not an easy sport. You just have to stay consistent. Sky is the limit and I know that my best is enough to compete at any level. I always knew that I had what it takes to reach there. But I didn’t know that it would happen so fast. There was so much media frenzy during the Mexico event. It was a completely a new environment and I was not used to it. But I thought I handled myself really well. You have to be very cool in golf. You go through a lot of highs and lows, but you can’t show it. At the same time, each player is unique on the Tour when it comes to temperament. I prefer to be calm. I also like to celebrate, but you have to be very efficient in managing your emotions. You should know how to get back to level zero after a brilliant hole or a shot. Temperament wise, I always look up to Tiger.
Excited about the President’s Cup
I will be playing under Ernie Els in the International team. Tiger will be the US captain. It is one of the biggest rivalries in golf. I am sure that it will be one of the best President’s Cup ever. Just being a part of it will be amazing. Everyone has a chance to make it. The beauty of golf is that you can rise suddenly. I was in the 500s a few months ago and now I am ranked 64th in the world. So I hope to play my best golf before the tournament and get into the team.
Fitness is key
It’s not easy to remain fit. For a golfer, you must have strong muscles in certain areas. Travelling a lot doesn’t help our cause. Thats why it’s important to go to the gym, especially after you land in a new city. I do a lot of flexibility exercise, but they are very different to what other athletes do. Tiger is a pioneer when it comes to fitness in golf. Now, everyone is fit.