Shiv, Shubhankar make 2017 a year to remember for Indian golf
By Amit Kumar Das
New Delhi, Dec 22 (PTI) New stars emerged on the horizon in Shubhankar Sharma and Ajeetesh Sandhu even as familiar faces strengthened their stranglehold by picking up their own set of titles in a season of new highs for Indian golf.
Shiv Kapur shone the brightest with two titles after a 12-year wait while the young duo of Shubhankar and Ajeetesh took Indian golf by storm in a superb year which saw Indians bagging seven international titles.
A year back, Kapur was laid low by a liver ailment but the Indian recovered and ended a long Asian tour title drought with a win at the Yeangder Heritage.
The year only got better for him as he claimed the Panasonic Open India after battling dengue and the treacherous DGC course.
Gaganjeet Bhullar, who had clinched two titles last season, continued his good run by securing his eighth Asian Tour crown at the Macao Open.
The ever-smiling SSP Chawrasia also continued his fine run this season scooping the Hero India Open for the second time, becoming only the third player to win the crown back- to-back in March.
It was his sixth win on the Asian Tour and also the sixth overall international victory.
The Kolkata golfer, who would be part of the EurAsia Cup next year, also had two top 10 finishes at Panasonic Open India (tied 2nd) and UBS Hong Kong Open (tied 7th).
Inspired by the Kapurs and Chawrasias, the newcomers also stepped up with Ajeetesh and Shubhankar clinching their maiden titles in the Asian and European tour respectively.
Shubhankar, who finished tied 11th at SMBC Singapore Open and was also in contention at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open, became the youngest Indian to clinch a European Tour title at the USD 1.2 million Joburg Open early this month.
The three-stroke win over Erik van Rooyen also earned him an entry to the 2018 Open Championship, his first major and an unexpected second place in the Race to Dubai ranking.
Infact, the he was impressive throughout the year, making four top 10 finishes and would hope to stay inside the top 60 in the Race to Dubai to tee up at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in November next year.
Sandhu, on the other hand, bagged his maiden Asian Tour title at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship (TPC). He also finished joint second at the Macao Open and Panasonic Open India, besides two top 10 finishes at TAKE Solutions Masters (tied 3rd) and Indonesian Masters (tied 8th).
India's highest ranked golfer Anirban Lahiri, playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, continued to look for his maiden title on the Tour as he finished tied 10th and tied 5th at CIMB Classic and The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.
The Bangalore golfer came close to winning a title at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide before finishing tied second. He also had a creditable tied 11th finish at The Honda Classic, besides a tied ninth result at the BMW Championship.
At the European tour, Lahiri had two top 10 finishes at the Hero Indian Open (T5) and Maybank Championship (T7). He, however, had forgettable outings at The Open Championship (missed the cut) and PGA Championship (75).
Meanwhile, last season's 'Rookie of the year' Aditi Ashok improved her profile as the postergirl of ladies golf in the country as she clinched the Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi last month to go with the Qatar Ladies Open and Hero Women's Indian Open that she won last year.
The 19-year-old from Bangalore also had a creditable tied 5th and tied 13th finish at Omega Dubai Ladies Classic and Hero Women's Indian Open respectively.
Among the veterans, Jyoti Randhawa finished tied 5th at the Resorts World Manila Masters, while Arjun Atwal showed glimpses of form when he signed off second and tied 7th at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open and Mercuries Taiwan Masters