Year in Review 2017: Shiv Kapur, Shubhankar Sharma among those who made year unforgettable for Indian golf
As the 2017 season comes to a close, here’s a look at the golfers who made the year a standout season for India:
The year 2017 has arguably been a great season for Indian golfers with wins aplenty and some very near misses on the biggest stage in the sport. Not just victories, the year was made special due to the reemergence of standout golfers, who again got themselves into the mix and conversations. There were also youngsters who continued their steady march upwards by making the right noises.
As the 2017 season for Indian golf comes to a close with the culmination of the McLeod Russel Tour Championship in Kolkata, here’s a look at the golfers who made 2017 a standout season for India:
This wily 39-year-old from Delhi Golf Club took home the 'Player of the Year' honours by topping the PGTI order of merit, which came down to the season finale in Kolkata last week. Running neck-to-neck with young Udayan Mane, it was Shamim who held on to finish the season on top. His earnings for the season totalled to Rs 51,64,233 from the 18 events he played in. He not only made all the cuts but also won thrice, had eight top 3 finishes and 14 top 10 finishes!
Another DGC boy, the 35-year-old former Asian Games gold medallist arguably had one of his best years as a professional golfer. He won twice on the Asian Tour. First, the Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei in April to break his winless drought on the Asian Tour, which has stretched over 11 years now. He followed that up with a stunning three-shot win at the Panasonic India Open at his home club last month. He also played in The Open but missed making in to the last two rounds by a solitary stroke. He is in 10th place in the Asian Tour Order of Merit with earnings of $288,873 from 19 events.
Still the only Indian golfer to win titles on the PGA Tour, European Tour, Web.com Tour and Asian Tour, he has struggled with injuries for the past several seasons. However, in 2017 Atwal rolled back the clock. He came to within a stroke of winning the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, a European Tour event, a month ago. He only lost the title in a playoff which deprived him of a wire-to-wire win after taking the lead on Day 1 with a course record round of 62. Atwal was named the captain for the Asia team for the Eurasia Cup 2018, a massive honour for Indian golf.
Not yet an adult, this Dubai-based young amateur has had a year to remember. The India No 1 amateur got accepted by the University of Oklahoma on a golf scholarship. Having won the Dubai Creek Open on the MENA Tour at his home club last year, he finished second this year and, in the process, fired a world record nine birdies in a row. Add to that, his No 1 position on the international team at the Junior Presidents Cup and his run to the semi-finals of the US Junior Amateur Championship. Moreover, his WAGR ranking is 19 — that's just 18 amateur golfers better than him in the world. For now.
He heads to the Asian Tour finale at the Royal Trophy being held this week in Thailand. Almost as big for the strapping 6-foot-tall golfer from Kapurthala was his win at the Macao Open, a marquee event on the Asian Tour earlier this year, which made him the youngest player to win eight titles on the Asian Tour. This was also his 18th win as a professional golfer. He currently sits at 15th spot on the Asian Tour Order of Merit having earned $253,803 from 19 events.
Having lost out on the Macao Open title by a whisker to his countryman Bhullar, he went on to win the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship, ironically an event won by Bhullar back in 2012. Sandhu, who grew up playing junior golf with Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri, finally seems to be playing the golf he was always destined to and the two-year Asian Tour exemption that comes with this title will go a long way. He is presently in 21st place on the Order of Merit having earned $210,633 from just 11 starts this year. He has won thrice on the PGTI previously.
This man never ceases to amaze. He kickstarted his year winning the Hero Indian Open at the ridiculously difficult DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurgaon by a whopping seven strokes to successfully defend the title he had won at Delhi Golf Club last year. This was also SSP's 6th Asian Tour and 2nd European Tour title. That he came tantalisingly close to another win on the European Tour at the iconic Hong Kong Open, where he led the strong field after three rounds until slipping to 7th place, continues to exhibit the tenacious nature of the 39-year-old maestro’s game.
The silent 21-year-old assassin ended 2017 with back-to-back victories. Shubhankar won his maiden European Tour title a couple of weeks ago at the Joburg Open, thus making it his 6th professional golf win in a four-year career. With that he also sealed his ticket to The Open 2018, apparently his favourite major championship. He returned home last week and won the PGTI McLeod Russel Tour Championship in Kolkata by outlasting Rashid Khan by a shot in a well-executed duel. Clearly the hottest Indian golfer who will enjoy a wonderful Christmas and start 2018 at the Abu Dhabi Open with full status on the European Tour.
The star of the young Olympian, who won the LET Rookie of the Year last time around, continues to shine and shine and then some. The LPGA member, now ranked #82 in the world, won the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi last month on the Ladies European Tour to continue her winning ways within the upper echelon of the game. She now has five professional titles to her name and also retained her status on the LPGA, taking home $162,143 in her rookie year on the LPGA after making 14 cuts in the 21 events she played. No small feat for a 19-year-old from Bangalore, who until two years ago was still playing junior and amateur golf.
The Indian No 1 continues to be the flagbearer for the nation. 2017 presented several opportunities for the World No 66. With already two top 10 results in four starts at the start of the 2017-18 wrap around PGA Tour season he has set himself up very well for his next start in the new year. His T2 finish at The Memorial earlier this year, at the event of Jack Nicklaus himself, was nothing short of spectacular. The fact that he made it to two of the four FedEx playoff events ending with a T9 at the BMW Championships underlined the quality of golf and mental fortitude that Anirban takes to the biggest stage of the game. And yes, he earned $1,944,289 last season and has already pocketed $611,090 after four events this season.
Lahiri was picked by the international team captain, Nick Price, to be a part of the Presidents Cup team and while internationals did get soundly thrashed, it was Lahiri's match on the final day with partner Si Woo Kim that earned them a rare point. This represented a symbol of defiance, pride and grit, earning Lahiri a standing ovation from his teammates.
The author is a golfer who represented India from 1988 to 1991 and captained the West Zone from 1996 to 2001
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