Imagine being from a poor background, witnessing the game of golf for the first time when you are just nine-years-old, becoming a ball-boy, rising on to become a caddie and eventually a player who is ranked 2nd in the IGU (Indian Golf Union) order of merit.
Maybe you can only imagine — but Senappa Chikkarangappa, or Chikka as he is fondly called, has done it in real life.
Chikka, 19, is the youngest player to have won the all-India Amateur Championship in 2009 and is the first golfer to win the all-India Amateur and Junior Championships. And that is a long way from fetching the ball from the rough as poshly dressed golfers got their swings wrong.
But the most interesting part about this upcoming player is the series of incredible events that led to him taking the game seriously.
Before he heads off for the Karnataka Golf Festival, Firstpost spoke to Chikka about his journey so far and he says that life took a complete turn after a golf course came up near his house.
“I saw people coming to play this game which I had never seen in my life… at first I thought it was hockey! But the greens attracted me. My friends would go and work there on weekends as ball-boys and earn some money. That’s why I first went there and joined. From then on, it was all about watching the players and learning.”
Chikka, overcome with curiosity to try the game himself would then practice in the village fields. “To tell you the truth, I stole some balls and would practice with a wooden stick. I then snuck into the driving range once and the coach saw me there. I was scared at first when he called me to his office, fearing a scolding and instead got an offer to take up the game.”
What is even more surprising is that Chikka didn’t even understand English — a language he is now fluent in. “When the coach was telling me to take up the game… I didn’t know what he was saying! When someone translated it to me, I just said ‘wow’!”
His coach Vijay Divecha knew about the expenses that come with training for the sport but he was so convinced of Chikka’s talent that he managed to work things out with the Eagleton golf resort to allow the youngster a chance.
All this happened for the young golfer in the space of 6-8 months. Things were all falling into place for Chikka, but the biggest hurdle was his family: “My parents told me ‘not happening’. I’m the only son and have two sisters. They asked me to get an education rather than play the game. But after a lot of convincing and a three-day hunger strike, I managed to get permission. The deal was that if I didn’t do something within a year, golf was over for me.”
And believe it or not, this golfer stunned his parents and golf followers in India with some outstanding performances. He came second in his first competitive golf tournament and then beat Khalin Joshi (the No.1 amateur golfer in India) in the next tournament.
“My photo was in the newspaper the next day and that was it.”
Life had begun for Chikka. He is now planning to go professional by the end of this year and is selected to represent India at the World Amateur Team Championships.
Having learned the game by watching, we asked him whether golf was an easy game. “Not at all!” he said, before elaborating, “You need to be very strong mentally. I cannot say I was born with a talent for the game but it was about my swing being spotted early.”
From longingly looking at the greens to fetching a ball — from practicing with a wooden stick to becoming caddie — and from sneaking in to the driving range only to be spotted as a top talent, Chikka epitomises the charm of golf.
But his reasoning still remains simple in contrast to the complicated technique behind the game: “While hitting a ball in cricket depends on the type of delivery, a golf ball is just there to be hit. It’s all up to you on how to hit it.”