Ashok Kumar gives the impression of being a man in a hurry. Engaging him in a conversation often means straining forward to catch the volley of words, which often become unintelligible, given the speed of delivery. The approach is no different on the course. Once through with his tee-shot, he is off like a hare, often leaving his partners struggling to keep pace.When it comes to children, Ashok has a way of endearing himself to them. Right through Friday, he made it a point to have Subham Jaglan, a promising seven-year-old, accompany him as he went about the round. Aware of the rules, the young boy would move to the edge of the fairway and wait till the players were through their shots. Once done, he would be by Ashok's side. An arm around the tiny shoulders, the senior pro proceeded while explaining the intricacies to the attentive lad.
It wasn't a one-off display of affinity. Emerging from the score-recording area, Ashok was approached for an autograph. He agreed instantly but wasn't satisfied with the pens at his disposal. "Something indelible, so that it stays with the child," he remarked. For a man, who seldom stays back to share his thoughts, even after a good round, watching him wait to make a child's day appeared strange.
Perhaps, this facet is an extension of the efforts to slow down. The haste to leave the course stays, given the monosyllabic replies after finishing on top after Day III. But his course management during the Panasonic Open gives the impression that the 11-time winner on the Professional Golf Tour of India, is trying hard to translate the benefits of a course in mental training.
From the time he teed off at the Delhi Golf Club this week, the focus has been on repeating the routine of playing well. The strategy has worked so far. After hovering at T2 for the first two days, he surged ahead on Saturday with a 69. The one-shot lead over Gaganjeet Bhullar is fragile, and that's not lost on Ashok.
Reminded of his inclination to get overtly aggressive on the final day, he replied, "That was in the past, the game-plan has changed."
If he has rid himself of the tendency to look over the shoulder, Ashok buttressed his claim by saying, "Not once have I looked at the leaderboard."
The reminder of having slipped from contention earlier also did not cut ice.
So, was he confident of sealing a win? A cold stare followed. "Abhi Dilli door hai," he shot back before walking off.