'I honestly exceeded my own expectations'

KIRTI PATIL

INDIA won the gold medal in the Asian Games golf tournament through the U.S.-based Shiv Kapur. It was an individual gold, for the country, in the sport of greens and fairways, after a yawning gap. Incidentally, Shiv is 20 years of age, as old as the gap between India's first golf gold medal and the second. Laxman Singh and Co. had emerged victorious in the 1982 Delhi Asiad, but since then the country has not been lucky to strike the right note.

Shiv Kapur is greeted by his family members on arrival at the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi.-SANDEEP SAXENA

What is fascinating about Shiv's win is that he achieved the unexpected and in difficult conditions. Nobody gave golf any chance after the Indian Golf Union (IGU) was left with very little choice since many golfers have turned pro.

Reflecting on his success Shiv Kapur was modest in admitting that he was just lucky to make it to the podium. Others could have done it, but there are many factors...

Question: Why has there been such a big gap of 20 years? Any particular reasons.

Answer: I think we have had a lot of good players but may be we were bit unlucky in the past. In the last Asian Games (at Bangkok) Harmeet Kahlon and Digvijay Singh were really good contenders but they didn't really make it. So I guess I am the lucky one.

What are your future plans?

My plan is that I am going back to the college in America (Purdue University in Indianapolis). I have studies to complete and I intend to complete. Only after that I would think of turning pro. To say it now would be premature, but I guess may be for one or two more years, I'll remain an amateur. So, I still have a lot of time to think about it. And, when that time comes, I'll take the decision seriously.

You train abroad and the result is there. The other players in the team did not have that luxury. Do you think Indians have a disadvantage of not getting a chance to play abroad?

I don't think playing in India is a disadvantage. There are many Indians, now doing good on the European Tour or the Asian PGA Tour. They have learnt their basics in India.

The only advantage I get playing abroad is that I get exposed to different conditions. I have personally played in all kinds of bad weather and that has probably helped me in Busan because the weather was awful on the last day. I am more happy about the win because of the kind of competition I had to face. But it doesn't mean that if a golfer is in India he can't win medals.

A round of 70 on the final day in such conditions is terrific. What was going through your mind when you teed off from the first hole on Sunday, October 6, 2002?

When I started the day I decided that I can't let the weather to get to me. I had to do everything what it takes to win. I decided to play my game and take it as it comes.

Basically what matters is to remain patient and that is what I did and I honestly exceeded my own expectations. I thought that a round of even par would have been enough to win medal, particularly in such weather conditions. Thankfully, I ended up better than that.

Could you describe the feeling when you came to know that you had done it? When did you realise that the gold medal was yours?

Actually, I got a fair idea that I was going to win when I was about to finish my 18th hole. Because somebody told me when I was walking down the last hole that Anura Rohana (the Sri Lankan who was tied with him overnight) was four shots behind me.

So I knew it, but I had to wait till he completed his last hole and half an hour more for the official results to come out. I didn't get my official results for more than half an hour and that were actually very tense moments.

In the Asian Games trials you had an easy time in the qualifiers. You beat all the others easily. Is there a big gap between players practising in India, and you, who plays abroad?

Absolutely not. I think our team was very good this time. It's just that we didn't click well together. In the qualifiers I happened to have a good week and they didn't have one. I don't think there is a much of a gap between me and others. They are also pretty well on the same level as me, it is just a matter of who plays well on that particular day.

When would you be joining the Indian circuit, if at all?

I haven't given a thought to it. Like I said I still have much of amateur golf to play and two years of college to go through. And then only I should be able to decide.

Is it because that you have access to a foreign coach that you have done well?

I don't think a foreign coach in particular is an asset. Your game has nothing to do with it. I can even find a good coach in India, but it is just the matter of convenience. My coach in the U.S. is good and he suits me well.