Shiv Kapur is counted among the best golfers in India today, and ranked the highest Indian player in the European Order of Merit on the European PGA Tour. He shot to international fame when he won golf’s Individual Gold Medal in the 2002 Asian Games in Korea. Right now, he is playing at the Celadna Czech Open, which began yesterday.
But Kapur was originally passionate about cricket and hadn’t discovered his love for golf until much later. “I started playing golf when I was nine, more to emulate my father than for the love of the game. At 13, I got picked to play for India and I realised that this is what I wanted to do. I didn’t really look back after that,” he recalls.In fact, Kapur’s parents wanted him to go to Harvard, where his sister also studied. But he steered clear and went to a university abroad where he could learn the sport seriously: "My parents are not really strict. They realised that golf was a passion and encouraged me eventually." But he rues the lack of Indian government’s support for the game.
“Golf courses require a lot of space and the only way you can make it affordable is when the government develops public courses. Private ventures will always aim at profit, and to do that, there will be membership charges and so on. Unless there’s government backing, golf will continue to remain an elite sport.”
Although it was only after Tiger Woods’ scandal that golf began drawing attention, it has picked up a lot of late. Kapur says, “Ironically, a scandal brought golf into the limelight. People who didn’t follow golf began to wonder what it’s all about. But the sport has picked up recently, kids start as young as three. Indian golfers have definitely become a force to reckon with,” he says.
Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Himmat Rai are the ones to look out for, he says. Athletes, according to him, have a very short shelf life: “It’s a business for us as well, so you have to do endorsements, but keeping a balance is really important to maintain your performance.”
Kapur practices for eight to nine hours a day, but on off days, he goes out to meet friends over drinks. He loves Bollywood movies and cooking. “I’m an adrenaline junkie too. I went on a sky-diving trip on my last holiday and will soon go bungee jumping in New Zealand,” he says.