He was destined for golfing glory

KIRTI PATIL

THE curtain raiser of the Shiv Kapur starrer almost went unnoticed. Then the show proper was marred by pouring rain. Still, the script was such that Shiv was destined for the golden glory.

-V. SUDERSHAN

Weathering the weather Gods, Shiv Kapur added a new chapter to Indian golfing history by winning the individual gold medal in the Busan Asian Games. Shiv defied the odds and silenced the critics who had predicted 'no chance' for Indian golf at the Games.

If one may excuse the ifs and the buts, there were many factors that contributed to Shiv's success.

First, the passion he developed for the greens since he was eight years old. In tow with his elder sister, Diya, Shiv would follow her through the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) course before he himself picked up the clubs.

Soon, he was teeing off at the hallowed precincts of the DGC under the tutelage of Simran Singh. In golf, success does not come fast for everyone. But, to some extent, Shiv has had his share of successes early on.

On his sub-junior debut, Shiv announced his arrival on the golfing scene by winning the All India Junior title in 1997. He repeated the performance the next year and since then Shiv has been India's best talent.

It was this talent, so far untested at the big occasions, that carried him to the top of the podium at the Asiad Country Club.

His decision to stay amateur, so far, has helped his cause of pursuing studies in the U.S. In turn, the country also gained.

Golf being a highly individualistic sport, the major part of Shiv's success goes to his dedication, passion and readiness for the hard work. "He would spend several hours to get the right rhythm. His concentration in the game is worth noting," was how Shiv's caddy narrates his association with the golfer.

The support from his well-to-do family, was, in a way secondary. There are many 'rich' golfers who start teeing off as teenagers and continue playing for many years without much success.

"I knew he was going to win after he made a splendid comeback on the third day to regain the joint top position," says caddy Thakur who carried his clubs for eight years teaching him the way to read the greens, cross the fairways and avoid the roughs. "He has done it for the country and I am elated," was what Thakur had to say as he led a small group of caddies at the Indira Gandhi International Airport to celebrate Shiv's victory and his arrival.

Then, there was an idea to make golf popular. The games' governing bodies, the Royal and Ancient Golf Association and the U.S. Professional Golfer's Association, decided to lift the tab on professionals participating in the Olympic Games or the continental Games.

Tiger woods in Olympics would have been a big draw. But the leading pros themselves described the idea as 'waste of time' and the idea died.

But the word passed around and some in India concluded that pros would be allowed entry in the Asian Games. It was not so, and the loser was Ashok Kumar, who in a huff turned pro early this year. He, nevertheless, is earning good money on the pro tour.

Shiv fitted into this scheme perfectly. There was a voice of dissent though, on why a U.S.-based golfer be given the chance to represent India when the country had scores of amateurs. Thankfully, the Indian Golf Union (IGU) showed immense faith in him and conducted open trials where he outpointed and outclassed the opposition by miles.

That was the curtain raiser, Sadly, very few made mention of it.

Shiv's triumph in the variedly different course conditions, sun-bathed on one day, windy on the other, and pouring rain on the last day, is a credit to his self-belief. Such conditions are ever present in the U.S. and he never skipped his golf practice to avoid such extreme weather.

"May be that is what has helped me to this gold medal," Shiv reflected on his arrival.

This IGU on its part, had conducted the trials at four different courses around Delhi which provided the probables unlike conditions on all four days.

At the Greg Norman-designed Jaypee Greens Golf Resort in Greater Noida, Shiv set the course record of eight-under 64 and finished overall 18-under 270 after four rounds.

At the Games, he shot 70 on the first day and tied for the first position. A poor 75 on the second must have provided nightmare for his near and dear ones as he slipped to the fourth position.

On the wind-swept third day, Shiv rallied fantastically with a card of 69 and regained his position at the top before closing his campaign with a 70. He won the gold medal by three strokes. But very little support from his teammates, Manav Das, Keshav Mishra and Harender Prasad Gupta, cost India a team medal as it finished fourth.

"It's exhilarating to see that the boy who started as a sub-junior win one of the biggest prize for an amateur," says Surjit Singh Dugal of the IGU Selection Committee.

His win should silence those in the Sports Authority of India (SAI) who from the start had objected to sending India's entry in golf. "They gave us no chance and at one point of time our team was not getting the clearance," Dugal remembers.

One hopes that Shiv's golden help soften the negative stand of the SAI towards the 'rich peoples' sport.

Shiv has got two years more at Purdue and till then he is expected to retain his amateur card.

As a golf captain of his university, and being the youngest Asian Games gold medallist in golf, the 20-year-old Shiv has a potential to be a good advertisement for the sport.