Mukesh Kumar has been the undisputed king of the Indian domestic golf circuit for over a decade now. Even at 45, his hunger for win seems insatiable. But the 45-year-old from Mhow (near Indore) with over 100 titles on the Indian pro tour rarely tried his luck outside India. In a chat with HT, Mukesh explains why. Excerpts:
Why didn't you try your luck
on the Asian Tour?
I did try for a couple of years around 2000. That I didn't and still don't have a sponsor to look after my travelling, made it difficult to sustain myself. The cost was around Rs 75,000 per week. I was funding myself and those days, prize money was not as good as it is now. But the fact that in India, I regularly play better than the Indians playing on the Asian Tour gives me some consolation.
Do you think of what you could have done when you see the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh doing well on Tours abroad?
I don't feel bad because the likes of Jeev had the support to try their luck outside India in their early days. It hurts a bit that I didn't get sponsors despite being as good as them, but the kind of success I have enjoyed on the Indian tour makes up for it. I made it a point that since I am not getting to play abroad, I must maintain a high standard here and I am happy to have done consistently well. I have no regrets because I know that I can play as well as they can.
Popular perception is that golfers mature with age, but of late we have seen a lot of Indian
youngsters doing well.
These guys have been getting good coaching from a young age and also have access to good equipment. During my formative days, I had to make do with wooden clubs. That way, these kids are coming through a far more organised system. Good prize money has been an incentive. These guys are really focussed. As a result, the competition on the Indian Tour has increased significantly.
How does it feel competing and doing well against them?
It’s challenging. These guys hit the ball a long way and also have the exposure of playing abroad. They mature fast and don't lose easily. I’m happy with the way I have coped with the challenge. It’s good to know my hard work — I still hit 600 balls everyday — has paid off. Nobody can say that my days are over.