It was youthful exuberance that had prodded him into volunteering to walk the course as a score recorder. By the time action from Match No. 29 meandered to the 18th, the drooping shoulders narrated a tale of exhaustion. Shifting his weight from one leg to the other, the young boy stood by the edge of the green, waiting for Pariya Junhasavasdikul to finish.
After walking in tandem with the three pros for over five hours, the mind had gone blank as the focus was on the tender frame crying out for respite. Stationed at an arm's length was Anirban Lahiri, closely watching the youngster throw longing looks towards the clubhouse. The relief was palpable as the Thai made his final putt. No sooner had he finished, Lahiri walked up to the boy and offered him the ball with which he had narrowly missed making birdie on that hole.
The youngster made his way back, looking down at the tightly clenched fist as if to ensure the surprise acquisition registered with the mind. His turning out for volunteer duty was bereft of ulterior motive, the move driven by his love for the sport. Lahiri's approach on Thursday was in some ways similar.
Defending a title for the first time in his brief pro career and taking to the Delhi Golf Club a month after winning the SAIL Open, many expected that he would have a head start over the field.
He did take a one-shot lead and spoke of “positivity”, but shot down talk of getting a hang of the conditions. “As champion, there is no different mindset. There is only one way of playing the DGC and its up to you to figure out a strategy that works for you.”
By pointing to the flags fluttering wildly by the practice green, he summed up what the players had been up against on Day I of the Panasonic Open. At 30 kmph, which picked up after he teed off around noon, the wind may have caused Lahiri to dither over the choice of clubs at the tee box, but barring those sporadic moments of indecision, the mantra was clear --- to grind it out.
It was probably Lahiri's first outing at the DGC which saw him work on a strategy dictated by the conditions. “Rather than managing different options, it was all about execution,” he said.
The pins placed awkwardly for an opening day, the regret of missed putts was there, but resting alongside was the joy of sinking some difficult ones too. Of particular satisfaction was the 12th. Going for the pin, Lahiri had no option but to aim for the bushes. Luckily, the wind caused the ball to roll back, presenting him with a birdie opportunity.