Shiv Kapur emulates Laxman Singh

A. VINOD

IT was a long wait for a second gold in golf for India. The first, of course, was won by Laxman Singh in the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi when the sport was introduced in the quadrennial event for the first time.

-V. SUDERSHAN

The new hero, young Shiv Kapur, was just nine months old when Laxman Singh won gold for the country and led the Indian squad to the team title as well. Well, though Shiv failed to lead his team to the top honours or for that matter even to a medal like his one-time idol Laxman Singh did, he won the laurels in the individual event of the 14th Asian Games in Busan.

It was not an easy ride for this U.S. based second-year management student with the Purdue University in Indianapolis. More than his form, he has to overcome the weather condition at the well-laid golf course in the Asiad Country Club. A persistent rain was a bit of bother for the golfers even as Shiv Kapur mounted a superb attack for the gold on the last day of the four-day event.

Shiv Kapur won the gold at the expense of Rohana Anura of Sri Lanka, by a margin of three strokes. The duo had started the final day on level with 214 and as the Indian revelled in the rain and shot a two-under-par 70 for an aggregate of 284, the Sri Lankan could return a card of only one-over-par 73 and a total of 287.

Having heard the thrilling tale from Laxman Singh about his golden moments in the New Delhi Asiad, Shiv Kapur probably would have got the inspiration to emulate him in the Busan Games. He started the campaign with a classy two-under-par 70, with birdies in the first, fifth, 11th and 17th and a bogey each in the second and fourth holes.

With Cheng Chen Liang of Chinese Taipei also returning with a same card, the contest looked keen for the remaining three rounds. But on the second day, Kapur was unable to live up to the expectations and could return only a three-over-par 75 which also saw him slide to the fourth position behind Rohana, Cheng and H.W. Chang. The Sri Lankan followed up his opening round of 71 with a brilliant 70, Cheng had a 72 and Chang, with the best card of the whole competition, a five-under-par 67.

Sri Lankan Rohana Anura (right), who won the silver, finished three strokes behind the champion, Shiv.-AFP

However, the young Indian showed resilience as he fought his way back into contention on the third day, firing a magnificent three-under-par 69 even as the other top contenders fell behind, being unable to match their performances of the first two days. Interestingly, Kapur had bogeys again in the second and fourth holes and birdies in the first, third and fifth holes to have a card of one-under-par 35 at the half-way stage. But moving over to play the second-half of the course, the Indian showed his mettle, striking birdies in the 10th, 11th and 14th holes as he came up with some excellent driving on the fairways and judicious putting in the greens, until a bogey in the 16th made him to be more careful in the remaining two holes.

Yet, there was a lot more work to be done, on the final day, if his dreams were to come true. The best part of the story here was that Kapur remained resolute and non-pulsed on the last day. Being used to adverse weather conditions while playing, at his University, for the last two years, Kapur came out with some scintillating golf in the second-half of the fourth round. Before that, he had finally conquered the second hole with a brilliant birdie for the first time in four days, but seemed to be in trouble as he bogeyed on the eighth hole when the ball unexpectedly rolled down the green as he tried to putt for par.

Then again, he was in trouble as his tee-shot, on the par-five ninth, landed away from the fairway but well within the bounds. Kapur could land only in the bunker. But when all seemed lost, he uncorked a beauty to get the ball close to the hole. Then a birdie from the Indian golfer put him on command.

Naturally, the young lad, who had started playing at the age of nine, was overwhelmed: ''When I saw the rain this morning, I thought I had an advantage over my rivals. I am used to playing in bad weather back at my University. I did not let the weather to get to me. So I went for birdies right from the start and when I found myself playing tentatively, I really shook myself up. It was a good test of my golf and I am happy to have stood to it. I was determined all week to win this gold medal."

Rohana, in stark contrast, had a bad final round bogeying in the sixth, seventh and 18th holes and was able to strike a lone birdie, in the 13th. Yet, he was able to emulate his compatriot Nandasany Pereira, who won a silver at the Beijing Games in 1990, with an aggregate of 287. ''The groupings for the day were done by team order and not individual. So, Kapur was four flights ahead of me and I had no idea what he was doing. It is disappointing to miss out the gold but I have had a good week and the silver is quite good."

Ai Miyazato, the gold winner in the women's section is flanked by Kim- Joo-Mi, the silver medallist (left) and Park Won-Mi, the bronze winner.-AFP

Kim Hyun-Woo of South Korea, who had bounced back with a fine 68 on the third round after two disappointing rounds on the first and second days took the bronze by holing in a 10-foot birdie in the first play-off hole against Yusaku Miyazato (Japan) and the joint leader of the first day, Cheng Chen Liang. The trio had ended the four rounds tied on 292, with Kim and Miyazato returning an identical card of 73 and Cheng 75 on the last day.

However, Cheng despite the heart-break in the individual competition, had the consolation of winning the team gold for Chinese Taipei along with H.W. Chang, Kao Bo Song and Sung Mao Chang after the foursome had netted a score of 874. South Korea won the silver following Chinese Taipei ten points behind while Japan, winner of the team golds in the last three Games, took the bronze with a score of 885. With none of other Indian standard-bearers, Manav Das, Keshav Mishra and Harendra Prasad Gupta, being able to measure up to the expectations and contribute in the same manner as their compatriot Shiv Kapur did, India had to be satisfied with the fourth spot with a score of 902.

Individually, Manav Das (74+74+84+75=307) was placed 22nd, Keshav Mishra (82+80+74+81=317) 36th and Harendra Prasad Gupta (82+78+80+91) further behind at the 47th spot among the 62 players who made up the field. But then, the failure of winning a medal in the team event was hardly a point of discussion as all eyes were centred on Shiv Kapur and the brilliant fashion with which he landed the individual gold.

Yusaka Miyazato's failure to win an individual medal in the men's section was compensated by his 17-year-old sister Ai Miyazato who restored her family pride by winning the women's individual gold with a total of two-under 286. The Japanese golfer had trailed behind Kim Joo-Mi by three strokes (216 to 213) at the start of the fourth round, having had cards of 74, 70 and 72 through the first three days. Kim had been a lot more consistent with scores of 73, 70 and 70 but on the rain-soaked final day, the South Korean could do nothing better than a disastrous six-over-par 78.

Miyazato, playing together with Kim in the same group, made most of the opportunity and returned with a two-under 70 and in the end was a clear winner over her immediate rival by a good five strokes. Park Won-Mi, also of South Korea, returned a score of 293 (75, 75, 72 and 71). She won the bronze. The Japanese teenager was obviously thrilled of winning the gold,"I was nervous at the start as there was a big home crowd following Kim.

But I birdied at the first hole itself and that gave me confidence. The rain also helped me as I was comfortable playing in such poor weather. I feel great, having won the gold for my country. You could, perhaps, say that I am in cloud nine right now." In contrast, Kim failed to come to grips on what had gone wrong. ''It is not the weather. It is just that I played badly today, making mistakes all the way.

You can never hope of winning if you make mistakes in such large numbers during the course of the final round." The team gold with a score of 577 and at the expense of Japan (579) and the Philippines (603) hardly seemed to cheer the South Korean.