Udayan Mane on Olympics qualification: I’m still pinching myself

Pune-based golfer Mane's wait for an official confirmation on Tokyo Games appearance ended on Tuesday evening.

Udayan Mane can’t believe he has made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Udayan Mane can’t believe he has made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.

Ranked 356, Mane was almost certain of making the 60-player field on June 24 when Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo withdrew. A reserve against Grillo’s name, Mane’s wait for an official confirmation ended on Tuesday evening.

“In fact, I’m still pinching myself as it hasn’t yet sunk in fully. With a great 2020-21 season on the domestic PGTI, I felt that I had almost sealed my qualification but the lockdown in India this year put some doubts in my mind whether I could actually make the cut for Tokyo. The only tours operational are the PGA Tour and European Tour and I thought the players from those Tours had a real chance of pushing through and qualifying for the Olympics,” said Mane, a member of Indian team in the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon, South Korea.

Looking back, the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) Board's decision to consider the PGTI performances for world rankings in 2019, came to Mane’s rescue. Winner of two titles in 2019 and three in succession during the 2020-21 season, saw Mane earn valuable OWGR points.

READ| Tokyo-bound athletes, including P.V. Sindhu, felicitated in Hyderabad

Mane joined his friend Anirban Lahiri as the last two players among 60 qualifiers. Interestingly, they share the same coach, Vijay Divecha. Both grew up training under Divecha at the Eagleton Golf Resort, Bengaluru.

“Anirban is not only a good friend but also a great golfer and a role-model. More than that, he is an amazing human being. He teaches us on and off the golf course. He’s the best person to emulate,” said Mane.

READ| Tokyo Olympics: Patty Mills, Cate Campbell named Australia's flagbearers

Chennai-born Mane, who grew up in Bengaluru and now resides in Pune, has a connection with Japan, too. “I have played in Japan before during the 2014 Eisenhower Trophy when I shot a 14-under for the week and finished 13th at the event. Until 2018 that was the best finish and score by an Indian at the event, recalled Mane and added. "My mother visited Japan on numerous occasions when she worked for a medical company that had its headquarters in Japan."

Back on golf, Mane said, “As far as preparation for the playing conditions in Japan is concerned, I’ll only be able to figure out the conditions after I get there. I don’t know how far or short the ball may go with each club compared to my standard yardages here in India.

“What I have done is hit balls off bare lies so that my striking is a little more in tune, I’m a little more precise and I’m ready for everything. The routine is a lot more structured as I know what I’m doing throughout the day or for each day of the week and it’s been rigorous."

Talking of his likely approach in Tokyo, Mane said, “My approach will be that I’m playing just another golf course over four days and focus on the things that I have to do to beat the golf course every day or play my best on it every day. So the key is to not let the scale of the event bother me but instead focus on how I prepare to do my best over four days on this golf course.

“The experience of already having competed at a multi-sport mega-event such as the 2014 Asian Games will in some way help me in adapting to the atmosphere of the Olympics. However, I’m sure the Olympics are unique in their own way. So it’ll be something for me to experience first-hand and something that is well beyond my imagination."

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :