Shubhankar marches into golf limelight (Profile)

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New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) It has been a breakthrough year for young Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma, who led for 54 holes before finishing tied ninth in the $10 million World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship in Mexico City.

The golf world took notice of the 21-year-old WGC debutant, as he dominated a field of some of the biggest names at the Club de Golf Chapultepec. Even though his overnight two-stroke lead going into the fourth and final round was annulled by a stumbling back-nine on Sunday, his ninth-place finish was one of the best performances in golf till date.

At the world ranking of 66, he is the top-ranked Indian golfer at the moment, largely thanks to his triumphant performances at the Joburg Open and Maybank Championship which catapulted taken him to the top positions in the ongoing Asian and European Tours with earnings of $500,000 and 930,074 euros respectively.

Those who know Shubhankar, son of an Army officer, say he is level-headed and has a matured mind. He has made the most of the Army’s sporting facilities since the day he went to the course, at the age of six with his father, Col M.L. Sharma after being nudged by fellow compatriot senior professional Anirban Lahiri’s father. He later represented not only the Army but also the country in some of the best amateur tournaments, including the World Amateur Team Championship.

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“The differentiating factor between him and other 21-year-olds is how he approaches tournaments and his mental ability to focus and to separate himself from the noise, especially during big events and even on the world stage. Amazingly it’s his first World Golf Championships and it’s been good to see that he’s not been overwhelmed and he’s not been overawed,” said Lahiri, who has a full PGA Tour card, said in a release.

Shubhankar turned professional in 2013 as he competed on the Asian Development Tour in 2014, when finishing fourth in the Panasonic Open India was his best show.

Later, even though trophies eluded him, his performances at the Asian Tour tournaments like the Take Solutions Indian Masters, Panasonic Open India and Bashundhara Bangladesh Open, where he earned top-five finishes — he showed a lot of promise.

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Indian great Arjun Atwal remembered what struck him about the promising talent. “I met Shubhankar when he was 17 or 18 years old in Royal Calcutta Golf Club when he came over to play in the Indian Tour season-ending tournament. I’ve always been interested to know the kids who were coming up from India and we were introduced. I liked him right away as he came across as a mature person. He has like an older soul and I kind of gelled with him right away and liked how he came across as a person,” said Atwal.

“Over time, I’ve played practice rounds with him, and followed his progress on the Indian Tour and Asian Tour and at a young age, it was good to see his progress. To me, he has a very calm attitude. I like that about him. He doesn’t get flustered, he takes everything in his stride and that’s what I’ve always noticed about him. He’s been very level headed since I’ve known him. I can’t see him being upset or cussing. He reminds me of me when I was younger,” he added.

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In Mexico, he displayed the multiple facets of his game, adjusting to the conditions and playing with patience. With his 62 in the final round of Maybank championship, he showed how aggressively he can play and deliver.

He has a long way to go but he has the mettle to even get better, believes Indian veteran Jeev Milkha Singh. “As a child, he has respect for his seniors, his conduct is amazing. Playing with fellow competitors, he is very good, very respectful and the third thing is that he believes in making his clubs do the talking. He just wants to win. He’s not bothered with what he can get if he wins. He just wants to win as many events as possible and make a name for himself in the world of golf.

“I was telling someone else the other day that the knowledge these kids have, they can become better than what I have done, what Arjun (Atwal) has done or what Anirban (Lahiri) has done. They have the knowledge to become better,” said Jeev.

–IANS

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