A determined Indian men’s and women’s golf team will travel to Jakarta, hoping to add to the tally of three golds and three silvers since the sport was added to the quadrennial games in New Delhi in 1982.
Medals in four categories are up for grabs at the verdant Pondok Indah Golf Course in Jakarta when the competition is held from 23-26 August – in men’s individual and team, and women’s individual and team.
The men’s team is represented by 18-year-old Rayhan Thomas, Kshitij Naved Kaul (17), Aadil Bedi (17) and Harimohan Singh (24), while the women’s team comprise Sifat Sagoo (17), Ridhima Dilawari (20) and Diksha Dagar (17).
While the fact that the average age of the men’s team is just 19 and that of the women’s team is 18, it augurs very well for the future of Indian golf. National coach Amandeep Johl feels the inexperience of the team, and their ability to handle the pressures of playing for the country, would be the only factors that could stop the team from getting a podium spot.
Speaking to Firstpost, Johl said: “I really think both the men’s and ladies’ teams are definitely medal prospects in Jakarta, especially in the team event.
“The key is that they all have to peak during that week. They have been practicing very hard and we have had a good training schedule ahead of the Games.
“Individually, I think we can expect a medal from the one of the men. The girls have also worked very hard and are playing well, but they will have to play their best game considering the opposition they face.
“The only weakness of the team that I see right now is that they should not feel inferior to the other teams. They need to feel it in their minds that they can win. They are all super fit youngsters, they are all well prepared and they are all motivated to do well for their country. I really think there is more strengths than weaknesses in this team.”
The team has prepared well, with two camps in Pondok Indah Golf Club, the host venue of the event, in the past couple of months. They are now having the final five-day camp at DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurugram before leaving for Jakarta on Friday, which should give them enough time for three practice rounds at the golf course.
An indicator of the good form that some of the team members are in was on display at the recent Asian Tour event in Bengaluru, where both Aadil and Harimohan finished tied 23rd at seven-under against a quality professional field. However, the top-ranked Rayhan missed the cut there.
“It was disappointing to miss the cut in Bengaluru, but I thought I played a lot better in the second round there and found something in my swing which I can work on,” said medal prospect Rayhan, who would be the highest ranked player in the world in the tournament at No19 after Thailand’s Sadom Kaewkanjana (14) and China’s Andy Zhang (16).
“It is an honour to represent my country in the Asian Games and I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I am absolutely pumped up to do well and I hope I will have my A game by the time the tournament starts.”
Aadil, who finished tied 14th the week before Take Solutions Masters in the Louis Phillipe Cup – a professional Asian Development Tour event – said, “After the trials, we have played in Singapore, Malaysia, Ireland and had practice camps in Jakarta and now two professional events, in which I made the cut playing against strong fields.
“We are 100 per cent ready and not thinking about any outcome at the moment. My job is to peak at right time and deliver my 100 per cent, which I am mentally prepared to do.”
While the men have won six medals so far in nine Asian Games, the women’s team is yet to open their account. Countries like South Korea, Thailand and China have extremely strong teams, a fact that is proved by how many of their young amateurs have gone on to become leading players on the LPGA and Ladies European Tours.
“I think it can be done this year. All the girls need to do is produce four consistent rounds,” said Johl.
“Riddhima has a very strong all-round game and a good head on her shoulder. Diksha is a very natural player. If she gets going, nobody can stop her. Shifat is technically a very good player who has worked very hard on her game and is seeing good results because of it.”
|Kshitij Naved Kaul||17||278|
Legendary Indian star Jeev Milkha Singh said reputations don’t matter in team championships and expected the team to put up a good show.
“Team events have very different dynamics and we have seen many times in the past that reputations go for a toss if all members of the team can come together,” said Jeev.
“All it takes is one good putt from a teammate to lift the spirit of the entire team. I have seen several of them in action and they are a very skilled and dedicated lot. I am very confident our boys and girls will do well in Jakarta.”
Indians at the Asian Games
1982 New Delhi, Team (Laxman Singh, Rajeev Mohta and Rishi Narain)
1982 New Delhi, Individual (Laxman Singh)
2002 Busan, Individual (Shiv Kapur)
1982 New Delhi, Individual (Rajeev Mohta)
2006 Doha, Team (Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri, Chiragh Kumar and Joseph Chakola)
2010 Guangzhou, Team (Abhijit Singh Chaddha, Rashid Khan, Rahul Bajaj and Abhinav Lohan)
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Updated Date: Aug 17, 2018 14:05:01 IST