Bhai, as I address my brother Shubhankar, started golf the year I was born. It was in Wellington, Tamil Nadu, in the Wellington Gymkhana Club, in the year 2002, that Shubhankar wielded a club for the first time. My father was posted there, those days. Shubhankar was not even 6 then.
Ever since I remember, golf has been the central theme of our household discussions. No politics, no movies, a bit of religion-thanks to my mom, but otherwise it just plain golf. You can take it or leave it. Fortunately everyone is ‘liking’ it now. To his credit, Bhai, despite getting the ‘full attention’ of my father quite a few times, held on to his club and soldiered ahead.
Today he has already made a place for himself in the golfing circles, and he just turned 18 in July. He has been a national champion at 16, maybe the youngest to do that. He went on to win his first professional title at 17, in April this year at Kochi, for which they dubbed him as ‘King of Kochi’. Youngest again! Maybe as they say, he has arrived. Not bad, Bhai!
Recently I went with him during the Kashmir swing of the PGTI tournaments and had a chance to look at him in a different light. I caddied for him a couple of times. And….he is a different guy on the field, no longer the squabbling and bossy older brother for his share of Maggie at home. He was in a different world for those 5 hours or so, starting from the range. What focus…
It was after this experience that I decided to officially interview him and pick his mind, and it was revealing. This is how it went:
OK, let’s start Bhai. Tell me; was the win in Kochi bigger than the All India Amateur title for you?
Well….that’s a hard 0ne to start with!(smiles) I’ll say both were simply amazing !! Looking deeper, I suppose the Kochi win was bigger as the field was totally different; much stronger, to the one we had for the All India Amateur Championship. Winning as a pro is different. But then the All India Amateur Open Championship also was big. It carries a lot of history and prestige with it, as it is the biggest tournament on the amateur circuit. It was my first big win at that stage. It is really hard to say.
(funny little problematic expression)
How has been graduating to the professional tour so early? Are your studies getting affected? (chuckle)
On the professional tour (thinking cap on)…It has been great, actually! You saw me through the first year; it is really hard in the beginning. But as you go along, the game starts developing and you start looking at things in a different perspective.That’s definitely the best part.
As for studies (smiles, he knows that he can’t pull a fast one with me here) Of course they’re a priority and I try to give as many exams I can during the year. But it will get hard juggling tournament timings and exams in between. I will do it though, you know that!
Ha, that’s nice! Studies come down to the last days before an exam for you! That’s the old school saying, I just study for a day before exams and still do well, that’s what happened with exams last year!
Okay, moving on….we recently went to Pahalgam for a tournament. How was it? Golf is slowly picking up in Kashmir, what do you say?
I think Pahalgam was really like a vacation! The weather was awesome… Ah! The valley, mountains and the river with freezing cold water! It was a great fun to be there with all of us together. I’m sure it’s the start of good golfing days in Kashmir; perhaps soon we’ll have some players from there. Why not? The course itself was really beautiful. Must have been a bit tiring for you caddying for me in the Pro Am! (Laughs)
Hey, I wasn’t tired; I carried the bag for full 18 holes!!
Okay, so Pahalgam was a vacation. Tell me, how are pro tournaments different from amateur ones? All vacations?
Of course not! I meant you won’t get such great weather and ambiance as in Kashmir in all the places (smiles). As far as the competition, don’t get me wrong, it is top notch! As far the amateur years, it was competitive out there, of course, but in a different way. I think pro tournaments certainly raise the bar. When you are competing with professionals, with years of experience behind them, the pressure is definitely different. But I think it’s all worth it. You learn and progress a lot faster on the Pro tour!
Do you think golf is being promoted well in India? I mean, we don’t see too many young people of my and your age playing golf?
Having been to almost all the golfing destinations in the east, in recent times, I feel that PGTI is doing a great job. We have a very efficient and rewarding Pro Tour in our country. On the amateur golf side, IGU is also doing a reasonably good job with the young golfers and giving them a lot of opportunities to play in India and abroad. Though they can do a lot better. So yes, golf is developing but I think a good way to popularize it will be to introduce it in the schools. It is important to teach children young.
As far more young people coming to golf, I think we have moved forward. Of course, sport like cricket is bigger in our country. But it is pointless beyond a point. You are sort of affecting the other games. How many nations are playing cricket after all? Luckily the attention is slowly shifting to other sports and golf is definitely one of them. Young people will come, wait for us to make more positive moves on the international circuit. It won’t be too long a wait now (smiles).
Any tips for young amateurs out there? How were your own amateur years?
The most important lesson is to keep working hard and never give up. That seems like a basic advice but I have found it to be the most important one. My own amateur years were rather short. But my biggest support was my parents. You know how Papa and Mama would enter into hours of discussions with me before we arrived at the decision of me turning Pro. I hope all parents are as open minded towards their children’s dreams and aspirations as our parents.
That would be awesome! Parents need to think differently. Anyone else you would like to thank for this golfing journey, I mean apart from me (laughing)?
You definitely have always been a great sport, Vandini. I am proud of you! You have seen how Papa and Mom have stood up and brought me to the present levels. I can’t say enough about that, perhaps won’t be able to do that ever in my life. In the environment, DLF has been a huge help. They have been amazing in their support. They are one of only few in our Country who truly value a golfer and understand his needs and requirements. A big thank you to them for what they are doing for me. They will always be close to my heart, irrespective..
Okay, I know you’re getting bored now, one last question! What is the most important lesson golf has taught you?
Wow, that’s a good question for the end! Patience, I think is my biggest lesson from golf. A lot of people have talent, even money to train but few are able to work long enough to gain success. It takes a lot of time, a lot of hard work. And not everyone has the patience for that.
All his words were well, but I’ve edited a bit for him. Ah, but how can such well said words come at the drop of a hat, especially from my big brother? (You can find him on Facebook by clicking on the magical blue ink behind.)
Consequently, this interview was published in Golf Plus India last year when I was 12, and he rather charmingly added to ‘wait for my little sister to emulate my achievements in the literary world.’
If you have a special sibling at home too, or you’re just a sports junkie, I’d love to hear from you. Share this if you enjoyed it!
I’d love to see you in my next post.