Jeev Milkha Singh remains the greatest star in India’s golfing firmament. From being a pathbreaker in the early 1990s to inspiring a generation of winners, he conducted himself like a true champion and won more hearts than any other golfer who followed his footprints.
After over two decades of playing on various tours across the globe, Jeev has opted to tee-off on a ‘new course’ from the next season.
One vividly remembers a young, shy Jeev sitting next to his father, the legendary athlete Milkha Singh, as we waited for lunch to be served at his residence in Chandigarh, in 1992, and how cautiously the budding golfer revealed his plans to turn professional.
Recently, after 28 years of that first meeting, Jeev once again sat down to give details of his plans. Smilingly, battling thinning hair and sporting greying sideburns, Jeev elaborated on the reasons that made him look at playing on the PGA Tour Champions (formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour) next year, soon after turning 50!
“As a golfer, I started my career at the age of 21, as a professional. Had a lot of dreams, followed them, lived them. The last four years proved a lean period when I was neither here nor there. By that, I mean I could neither compete with the youngsters nor am I on the Senior Tour. So I was just passing time for the last four years. If we talk about the phase from 21, to the age of 43-44, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved it every single bit.
“Obviously, there were lots of ups and downs with success… with a lot of sorrow. What kept me going was that dream of doing well. I had that belief system of making sure that I set high standards for myself, have goals where I can prove to the world that this guy coming out of India wants to showcase that golf is played in India, at a high level and we can compete with you. Did that. Loved it.
“Now, I’m looking forward to the senior tour. And the senior tour starts at 50+ and it starts for me next year. I’m already exempt (from qualifying) because I’ve done well on different Tours in the world like Japan, Europe, Korea, and I’m exempt in all the major championships next year.
“I’m going to be playing close to 35 to 40 weeks next year, all over the world. The only tough part is going to be the jetlag and the recovery period. When I was a youngster it was easy to handle, but I don’t know how I’ll handle that. I will have to do it.
“But as a golfer I think I’m very fortunate I picked up this game. Not many athletes after the age of 40 have an opportunity or have a second innings. I think only this game can offer that to you. Normally for an athlete, his career is over by 40 because physically, you cannot compete with a youngster.”
Jeev has reasons to be proud of his career. He won five titles on the Asian Tour, four each on the European Tour and the Japanese Tour besides one on the Korean Tour.
Jeev, the first Indian to qualify for the Masters (in 2008), made 14 appearances across the four Major championships. He made the ‘cut’ eight times in the Majors, and at least once in each one of the four.
So what kept Jeev going despite suffering injuries at different stages of his chequered career?
Jeev reveals the thinking behind his steely resolve. “We all talk about working hard. But the most powerful muscle in the human body is the mind. We never work on it, we only talk. I’m a firm believer that if a human being spends 10 minutes a day on his mind, like you give good food to the mind, you will be a successful human being. In this respect, yoga has helped me a lot.
“I’d say there are a few things which help a human being achieve what he wants in life. First, you have to have goals. Second, set high standards for yourself. You should never say that I’m worth this. You’ve got to look at the highest standards for yourself. After high standards comes routine. With routine, comes the trust level. After you get the trust in what you do, comes the belief system. And the day a human being starts believing in what he does, nothing stops him. He doesn’t need anybody else to tell him what he’s all about. That inner confidence and that belief system will take you to the next level in whatever you do in life.
“So you have to work every day for 10 to 15 minutes on your mind, like you have food every day. And that’s the positive food you are putting in your mind. The book I regularly read is The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy. It’s one of the most powerful books and I’ve read it more than a 1000 times. I just love it. It is all about positive thoughts every day. You read a paragraph… it is just good things, good thoughts for your mind. You start your day with a positive thought, you end with a positive note. That is what keeps you going. You delete the negative and you enter into a positive mode. That’s simple. Just keep it simple in life!”
Looking back, does Jeev think he could have done better in any of the Majors?
“I would say that there was one major championship, which I thought I had a very good chance to win. It was the 2008 PGA Championship where I finished ninth. I was just a shot away after the front nine of the last round, but I got ahead of myself in the back nine. What I mean by getting ahead of myself is that I should have controlled my emotion and my mind better in that back nine, to have a very good chance at winning that championship.
“My dream has always been to win a major championship on the main tour. That was the only championship where I was playing the best and felt I had a very good chance. I did prove it to myself till the last nine holes.”
As is his wont, Jeev signs off on a positive note. “I’m getting ready for the Champions Tour. I’m very fortunate… I’m a very fortunate human being.”
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