Interview: Shiv Kapur wants to be the best in Asia

by Tariq Engineer  Feb 4, 2013 10:15 IST

#Asian Tour   #Eurozone   #Indian golf   #Shiv Kapur   #VeryUpClose  

When Shiv Kapur won the Volvo Asian Masters in 2005, his first year as a professional golfer, and was named Asian Tour Rookie of the Year, it appeared to be the start of a very promising career. But things did not quite go according to the script.

While Kapur earned his European Tour Card in 2007, he would not enter the winner’s circle again for another seven years, until he won the inaugural Shubhkamna Champions tournament, a PGTI event, in December last year. There were close calls, of course. In 2010, he came agonisingly close to his first European Tour victory, losing to Richie Ramsay in a play-off for the South African Open, but the lean spell had him questioning whether golf was his true calling.

“About a year and a half, two years ago, when I lost my [European Tour] card for the first time, I said do I really want to do this?” Kapur told Firstpost. “I am sick and tired of this. I am not swinging the club well. I am frustrated. I have some kind of brain. Maybe I can do something else.

Shiv Kapur. AFP

Shiv Kapur. AFP

“But those are fleeting thoughts. I think everyone goes through it. I was talking to Adam Scott, he has gone through it. I was talking to Darren Clarke. He has gone through it.”

What convinced the 30-year-old Kapur to stick with golf was the string of good results he had late last season. There were top-five finishes at the Panasonic Open, the Macau Open and the Indian Open, followed by that win in his last event of 2012.

“I finished last season on a high,” he said. "I had a really good last few months. So form is in the right place, mind is in the right place … Not to sound too Stella has got her groove back, but I feel like I have my groove back. I am really excited to start this season.”

Kapur is focusing more on the Asian Tour this year, in part because he lost his European Tour card for the second time, and his primary goal is to win the Order of Merit. Having won the gold medal at the 2002 Asian Games, essentially giving him the title of the best amateur in Asia, he wants to repeat that feat as a pro (his fourth place finish on the money list his first season has been the best of his career so far). He starts the season this week at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, a European Challenge Tour event.

“The previous year when I lost my [EPGA] card, it hurt. This year [2012] I was more focused on Asia and thought if I get my card in Europe, it was a bonus. And I played really well to put myself in that position. Obviously you are disappointed when you don’t get over the line, but I wasn’t heart-broken.”

The pain was also tempered by Kapur’s new found business interests. He is one of the founders of the Golf Premier League, which will be played for the first time the second week of February at the Aamby Valley golf course outside of Mumbai. Planning and organizing that event has kept him busy and helped take his mind off his game, which in turn has loosened him up and allowed him to play more freely. He has also lowered his expectations and is not putting as much pressure on himself as he might have in the past.

“I just go out there and say, look, I seem to be playing my best and if I can win, great. If I don’t, I know I have put my best out there. I have the talent and the ability. I believe that about myself. And I am a hard working kind of guy.”

It helps too that the Asian Tour is like “boarding school”. All the guys eat together and travel together and he gets along well with the next generation of Indian pros trying to make their mark. That level of comfort is another reason Kapur is happy with playing in Asia, though he does plan to play events in Europe over the summer. He also believes the Asian Tour is on the upswing while the European Tour is struggling to keep its best players from jumping across the Atlantic to the US PGA Tour.

His strengths remain the same – the ability to hit the ball straight and find fairways and greens. In 2012, he was tenth in fairways hit and ninth in greens hit in regulation on the Asian Tour. He was also seventh in scoring average (70.43) and sixth in total score under par at -52. The part of his game he concedes he needs to work on the most is his short game: “I won’t say it is my weakness, but there is a lot of room for improvement”.

Despite the setbacks and the lack of trophies, Kapur says he is “very happy” with how his career has unfolded to this point. “I think initially if you had said to me, my first year as a pro I would win the Volvo Masters and be the Rookie of the Year, I would have bit your hand off. But then after that, my own expectations grew.

“In certain respects, I have overachieved. In certain respects, after the early success, I haven’t lived up to my own expectations. It is like a bit of a see-saw. The seven years I have been a pro, it has been three mini-careers. Second guessing yourself, knowing you are the best, or believing that you are the best or all those kinds of things.”

The up and down ride Kapur has been on has led him to take a wider look at life. Golf remains his first love and his first priority, but he has stepped back so that golf is not the only thing he has.

‘There is one thing about achieving your goals as a professional but there is more to life. Golf is my ultimate goal but I am not going to sacrifice anything and everything for it. I want the whole package.”