Having walked on the edge for a major part of his 32 years, Chinnaswamy Muniyappa has not learnt to look beyond subsistence living. Twenty-five ago, the seven-year-old, hardened by the travails of life, volunteered to step out of home, a one-room hutment, and caddy at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA). The purpose was to supplement his parents’ meagre earnings as daily wagers at the KGA.
On Sunday, the winner’s cheque of $198,125 meant little to the man beyond facilitating next year's Asian Tour card and his words capped talk of how the Hero Honda Indian Open would be his ticket to a life of plenty. “Initially, the aim was to birdie the 18th and win the title, but the moment I made par and playoff was certain, my Asian Tour card was ascertained. Thereafter, I felt light,” he said to debunk the role of pressure.
His future on the Tour taken care of, the plan was to hit it shorter than Lee Sung and give himself the chance to take the first shot and put the Korean under pressure. That necessarily did not happen, but what occurred was that the Indian's third shot landed about six feet from the target. Pressure caught up with Lee and he missed from a slightly longer distance. Muniyappa homed in and for the first time the crowd witnessed emotion seeping out of the man — the right hand going up and the left slowly joining in.
The action in the final hours easily matched the undulating greens of the DLF Golf & Country Club, but the excitement could have been avoided had Muniyappa focussed on making even-par after going a stroke up with a birdie on the 15th. But as the saying goes: “Golf puts a man's richest qualities — patience, poise, restraint — to the flame,” and Muniyappa bogeyed the next and missed consecutive birdie putts to settle alongside Lee at 12-under 276.
Passing the test of character in the playoff meant Muniyappa not only gave himself the opportunity to play in big co-sanctioned events like the Barclays Singapore Open, he also inched closer to the dream of “playing alongside Tiger Woods”.
Amidst the euphoria was a hint of sadness. Though the centre of attraction, it was as if Muniyappa's intense eyes were searching for someone. “I wish Madaiah (a close friend) was here today. We had sworn to play at the Asian Tour together but the cruel hands of fate snatched him away (he was killed in a motorbike accident). I've yet to decide how to utilise the money.
“After living in a rented accommodation for years, buying a flat could be an option. If that happens, he (Madaiah) would have been so happy,” he said and his voice trailed off.