The trip to Singapore earlier this month was an eye-opener for Ashok Kumar. The scores of 70, 71 at the par-71 Sentosa Golf Club may have been "satisfying", but missing the cut at the $6 million Barclays Singapore Open left the Professional Golf Tour of India's Order of Merit leader alive to the virtues of consistency across domestic shores.
"The connect with the Asian Tour has stayed inconclusive," said Ashok with a dismissive wave of the hand. Drawing closer, he muttered, "It's been a lack of effort, laziness if you want to be brutal."
The amiable 27-year-old has been trying since 2004, but the Tour's qualifying school remains an insurmountable barrier. The desire to feature with Asia's elite still flickers, but the confidence of pocketing four titles at home, which includes the spurts that saw him collect back-to-back titles twice in the past two months, have caused a hardening of stand.
"I'll be going to the Q-School next year too (in January at Hua Hin, Thailand) but I've promised myself a different result. All I need is a year of consistent exposure and there'll be no looking back," he said. A beginning will be made this week at the Delhi Golf Club --- Ashok calls it home - when he tees off for the $1.25 million Hero Honda Indian Open on Thursday. "The endeavour will be to play consistently on all four days, whether it'll pay off, will be known on Sunday," he said.
It has been a whirlwind, but fruitful, travel, and in his quest to become the first domestic golfer to breach the R50-lakh prize-money mark, Ashok has not got to practice here for over two months.
The separation meant little as Monday's brief session on the putting greens was enough to have him crooning on the do's and don'ts at this venue, famed for its tight fairways.
"I'll be working on my driving as the tee-shot will determine one's fate. Keeping the ball on the fairway will be crucial, otherwise it will be fire-fighting all the time," he said.
Despite the national Open's late unfolding, Ashok stayed confident on the conditions that'll be on offer. "Be it in October or now, the DGC always plays well during the big events.
"Yes, a month back the course would have played hard and the wind would have come into play. Now, the cold means we can expect a softer surface."