If Anirban Lahiri were to place a finger on an occasion when he felt gratified at having perfected the task of taking lessons, he would undoubtedly choose the final day of the BILT Open.
"If imparting knowledge is an art, imbibing it requires a knack too. A coach's task is to disseminate information, you have to be smart enough to use it to your advantage," he had said before the event. Little did he know the words would prove their worth so soon.
A slight smile played as a composed Lahiri held up the winner's cheque of Rs 16,16,500 and the nearby scoreboard flashed the four-stroke victory margin over Amardip Sinh Malik. To those sampling Sunday delicacies on the deck of the Karnataka Golf Association, it appeared to be a cakewalk, but people on the course would vouch for the nerve-wracking moments he had to bear before becoming the third player (after Jyoti Randhawa and Mukesh Kumar) in the Professional Golf Tour of India's (PGTI) history to defend a title.
The feel-good factor was missing from the early hours of Saturday. By the time he was through with the warm-up, it was obvious that issues had to be ironed out and proof lay in the stern look on Vijay Divecha, his coach's, face.
Lahiri was soon on level terms with Malik after bogeying the opening hole. "My hitting was the worst over the last four days, the ball went all over," he said. It was here that he started to draw from the sessions on mental toughness. A 25-feet par on the 2nd was critical as it allowed him to hang in. Focussed on wresting back the lead, Lahiri had the putter responding when required and he holed an eight-foot putt on the 3rd and repeated it on the 8th.
Nosing ahead did strengthen the self-belief, but his craft continued to falter, a dropped shot on the 10th was a pointer.
In his battle against the self, Lahiri got help from unexpected quarters. A band of small but enthusiastic children walked the course with the PGTI's new order of merit leader and it was a throwback to the time when Lahiri, as a teenager, had tracked Jyoti Randhawa's triumph in the Hero Honda Masters (South). Buoyed by the youthful exuberance, he pulled away with birdies on the 11th and 15th to register his first title here in nine years.
The man's tenacity had impressed all, including the weather gods. To ensure the script did not take an unexpected turn, a stiff wind and light showers came into play, causing Malik and Vijay Kumar, the other contender, to fade away.