Jeev brimming with confidence

"These SEVEN YEARS were tough. But I never stopped believing that I could still win. Perhaps, I put a lot of pressure on myself and tried too hard. But this victory (Volvo China Open) has given me a lot of confidence. The wait was worth it. I hope I win some more," said Jeev. An appreciation by RAKESH RAO.

Milkha Singh has been busy receiving congratulatory calls on behalf of his son Jeev. The mediapersons, too, are quick to seek his time for interviews since Jeev is not due to return to Chandigarh in a hurry after having won the Volvo China Open. Jeev is on a nine-week playing schedule that includes events in Japan.

"I want Jeev to come home at least for a day before teeing off in Japan. It will be nice to see him get his due from the people of Chandigarh and the National media. After all, winning a European Tour event is no joke," says Milkha Singh.

The legendary runner is obviously thrilled that Jeev has taken that extra yard to beat the field when it really mattered. By doing so for the first time in seven years, Jeev also made a point that nice men need not always follow the winner.

Milkha knows how painful it feels to follow the winner, especially when the stakes are high. After all, in spite of his numerous firsts, Milkha is best remembered for the race he never won. In the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, Milkha finished fourth in the 400m final where the first four runners came inside the previous world record. If Milkha's best came in the Olympics, the biggest moment of Jeev's professional career came in the city that will host the next Olympic Games. It is certainly a coincidence, of sorts. But then, Jeev is not done yet.

It is said in sports, winning is a habit. The more you win, the easier it gets to win again. But for Jeev, titles dried up after the Lexus International in 1999. Thereafter, it was all about coming close to winning on occasions. Milkha could feel the pain of his son's growing frustrations.

Milkha, who always encourages Jeev to play with a lot of heart and give his best, observed that his son allowed the pressure to get to him especially when playing in India.

"Jeev has allowed the pressure from the people and the media to get to him and that's the reason why he has not won in India. I've always asked him to concentrate on his game alone. I am glad that after all these years, he has come up with such a big title. Now you can hope Jeev to give better results."

Jeev agrees that he went in on the last day of the Volvo China Open with a reverse psychology. "If it doesn't happen, never mind. I just wanted to give it my best shot. I stayed calm. In fact, even if I were a stroke ahead at the start of the final day, I would have done the same. Play sensibly and keep trying," said Jeev of his one-stroke victory that followed a final-hole bogey. "It was indeed a long wait but I guess, it was worth it," said Jeev as he shared his joy with SPORTSTAR. "These seven years were tough.

But I never stopped believing that I could still win. Perhaps, I put a lot of pressure on myself and tried too hard. But this victory has given me a lot of confidence. The wait was worth it. I hope I win some more," said Jeev.

Jeev may have acquired his middle name from his father, but he took no advantage of his father's status. He chose to take golf as a career option and Milkha was quick to endorse the decision. "Give your best to be the best in what you do," was what my father said, reminisced Jeev.

Milkha added: "I told him that hard work has no substitute. And success follows hard work. So put in your best to be successful."

Several children of celebrity sportspersons have come a cropper in the face of great expectations that are more often unfair or unrealistic. While Rohan Gavaskar and Prakash Amritraj remain well short of what their illustrious fathers achieved, Leander Paes has emerged a notable exception. In this respect, Jeev can match Paes.

As it turned out, Jeev became the country's first golfing ambassador. In the early 1990s when the sport was not big in the country, he proved that Indian golfers, too, could win overseas. Jeev's exploits made a whole generation of golfers believe that pro golf was a good career option. In short, he emerged the path-breaker, gave Indian golf a new direction and became the face of the young pro brigade.

His four titles on the Asian Tour came between 1995 and 1999. However, he failed to win a single title on the Indian Tour. But won countless hearts and admirers by carrying himself in the most admirable manner. A nagging wrist injury played havoc with Jeev's career but there was no dearth of fellow players and fans waiting to shake hands with the genial giant. Shiv Kapur, who promises to scale new heights, aptly put into perspective Jeev's triumph in Beijing by saying, "It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. He really deserved it. He waited for so long (seven year) and stuck it out. In a way it is a lesson for the rest of us, too, that we should never give up. And his popularity can be seen from the fact that everybody made a special effort to come up and congratulate him. He really is liked by everybody on the Tour as he is a great guy." Gaurav Ghei, winner of the 1995 Gadgil Western Masters and runner-up at the 2005 Indian Open, was also lavish in his praise of Jeev. "He really waited for a long time for this moment. He was one of India's first winners in Asia and then he had injury problems, but now with this win, he is back in roaring form. I am sure he will grow even more in his stature as a quality golfer." One of Jeev's lesser-known contributions to Indian golf is the way he has inspired the younger lot, especially from Chandigarh. Gurbaaz Mann and Harinder Gupta are the better-known names among the young crop that has gained immensely from Jeev.

Jeev is approachable and forever willing to help fellow players. His friendly demeanour has rightly earned him the tag of "good guy."

And guess what Jeev firmly believes in?

"Good things happen to good people. Sometimes, good things take time to come. But they do come."

Today, Jeev's belief stands reinforced. CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

At 13, Jeev won the first amateur title, the American Express championship in New Delhi.

Won Doug Saunders Championship to earn a scholarship to study in the United States.

Won the All American Amateur Golf Colours at the Aberlin Christian University in Texas. Turned professional in 1993 and won the Southern Oklahoma State Open.

Played on the TDC Tour in Malaysia and won the first three tournaments.

1994: Became the first Indian to win an international professional title abroad by taking the Shinhan Donghae Open in South Korea (not an Asian Tour event).

1995: Won the Philippine Classic and the Asian Matchplay (both Asian Tour events); Became the first Indian to play on the Japanese Tour.

1996: Won the Philip Morris Asia Cup with a record of 26- under (Asian Tour event); Defeated Andrew Coltart as India stunned Scotland in the Alfred Dunhill Cup.

1997: Became the first Indian to qualify for the European Tour by finishing seventh in the qualifying school.

1999: Won the Lexus International (Asian Tour event). Also enjoyed the best season on the European Tour by finishing 50th on the Order of Merit.

2002: Became the first Indian to play four rounds of the US Open.

2006: Took his earning from the Japanese Tour to 117,421,033 yens (approx. $999,108); Won the Volvo China Open (cosanctioned by the European and Asian Tours) and became only the second Indian to win on the European Tour. The winner's cheque of $300,000 was the biggest of his career. Headed the Asian Tour UBS Order of Merit by taking his earnings this season to $373101.

Became only the 10th player to join the million-dollar club by taking his career earnings to $1.06 million from the Tour. Only third Indian to do so after Arjun Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa.