Change can mean a lot of different things to different people, none of them necessarily being the coins in one's pockets. And, if those changes refer to additions to one's armoury as well as one's family, they are probably for the best. Just ask Chandigarh-based professional golfer Harendra Gupta. Of the two Players Championships organised by Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) last month in Pune, Harendra was only able to attend one.
Of course, during the first of those two tournaments, held at the Poona Golf Club, his chosen sport must have been the last thing on his mind - his wife, after all, had just delivered their daughter. Less than a week later, the new father, armed with a new club in his bag, finished fourth at the Oxford Golf Club.
While merely smiling at the suggestion of the latest member of his family having brought him good luck, Harendra, one of two halfway leaders of the PGTI Players Championship at the Chandigarh Golf Club on Wednesday, believes that his new club has worked quite well for him so far. "The shots that were difficult to pull off with accuracy while using the pitching wedge are easier to control using the gap wedge," said Harendra, who shot a three-under-par 69 to go with his opening 68 for a two-day total of seven-under 137.
Playing on his home course, Harendra, who has previously won the PGTI Players Championship at the same venue back in May 2008, hit the ball close to the pin on the front nine, starting off with back-to-back birdies. "I was a little off on the back nine; even though I reached the greens in regulation, I landed away from the pins," said Harendra, who went on to make two more birdies against a lone bogey on the tricky penultimate hole to finish the day in a share of the lead, alongside Kolkata's Shankar Das, who himself has a certain change - a new experience, actually - to draw from.
About a year-and-a-half ago, Das was just another caddy-turned-pro trying hard to make it on India's domestic golf tour. Then, in November 2010, at a PGTI event in faraway Digboi (Assam), he broke through. A second win in Pune last year followed by a successful title defence in Assam proved that the first triumph was no flash in the pan.
This year, the Kolkatan has made rapid strides. He missed the cut at the European Tour co-sanctioned Avantha Masters, but in the two Asian Tour events that followed, he finished sixth and fifth, respectively. In the meantime, his home club, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, decided to provide him financial assistance for his potential foreign trips to the tune of Rs 4 lakhs per year. That foreign trip materialised soon enough - last month, as the PGTI travelled to Pune, Das flew down to Indonesia, to take part in his maiden international tournament, the Asian Tour event Indonesian Masters. What's more, he made the cut, too.
In his first tournament after having gained vital international exposure, Das opened with an impressive three-under 69 in the first round and followed it up with an improved card of 68 in the second to grab a share of the lead. "Playing abroad teaches you a lot. The places where you hit an iron in India, you have to make use of a wood," said Das, whose typically accurate iron play resulted in as many as five birdies from within five feet on Day Two here. And even though poor approach shots caused him to drop a couple of bogeys, Das finished with a 20-foot putt for birdie on the final hole.