An Indian golfer, one who mostly plies his trade on foreign soil, wearing the tri-colour on his cap in addition to his sleeve. At first glance, you would flush with pride. Then, it would hit you --- barring the flag, the cap was Spartan. SSP Chowrasia, one of only three Indians to win twice or more on the European Tour, did not have any sponsors.
Forced to fund his European sojourns from his own pocket, every missed cut stung hard. And he missed a lot. "In hindsight, I should not have let it affect me, but it did. I guess it's only human," said Chowrasia after carding a three-under 69 in the opening round of the DLF Masters on Thursday. "Europe's very expensive. One-and-a-half lakh is the least you end up spending during a tournament week. The caddie fee alone is 60,000.”
That was till March. After a fateful week following an inter-city golf tournament, the tri-colour gave way to the logos of Take Solutions, sponsors of the Chennai team that Chowrasia represented, and BlackBerry. “It was Jeev (Milkha Singh) who pushed Take,” recalled the Kolka-ta-based pro. “For BlackBerry, my coach Pritam Saikia was responsible."
With the burden of budgeting off his mind, "Chow" is a visibly relieved man. There has been a definite improvement in his results in Europe — two top-15 finishes being the beacons —although more needs to be done. "I went through a swing change at the start of the year, and while my putting is alright, it can definitely improve," explained Chowrasia, who has playing privileges till next year. "I prefer playing in Europe --- the facilities are better --- but the competition is tough. On any given week, any of the 200-odd golfers can win. So, you cannot afford to be at anything but your best."
On the road and away from the greens, it's usually just dinner after the day's play with his wife Simantini, whenever she's accompanying him, that is. “In Singapo-re or Malaysia, the courses are near the cities, so we go shopping. That doesn't usually happen in Europe," said Chowrasia, before quipping, “I try and ensure she walks the 18 holes with me. That way, she'll be as tired as me, and won't force me to go sightseeing!”