From the time they came together in 1999, till the yearning for change caused the two to drift last year, Himmat Rai and Romit Bose were bound by a purpose. The objective before the student-coach duo was to perfect a programme that would arm the golfer with the wherewithal to reach the pinnacle. Fuelling the process was Himmat's burning desire to emulate his idols.
"Jeev (Milkha Singh), Jyoti (Randhawa) and Arjun (Atwal) are responsible for getting me ambitious," said Himmat. Endowed with keen faculties, "seeing was believing" for the inquisitive lad. Tidings from overseas shores narrated the trio's ability to take it on the chin as they tried out untested waters, and the tales of tears and joy instilled the belief that he could perform on the world stage as well.Early years
The formative years threw up opportunities to interact with the icons but while soaking in the advice, Himmat, 24, took care to weigh the information and ensured it was of use to him. One such occasion was the BILT Open in 2006 when he played two rounds, as an amateur, with Jyoti. "His advice on improving the pace of play was invaluable as I was able to focus on issues that were slowing me down," said Himmat.
Following a regimen, which ensures success through the "sheer number of repetition" and endows him with the know-how "so that he can teach himself", Himmat was iffy about placing one man's influence over the other. "I admire them for different reasons --- Jeev for his never-say-die spirit; Jyoti for his consistency and Arjun for bouncing back rather late in his career to win on the PGA Tour," he said. What he was sure of was that looking up to the stars had triggered fierce competition amongst the current crop. "The more we have this (rivalry), the better it is for Indian golf. Be it Anirban (Lahiri), Gaganjeet (Bhullar) or me, we now have guys in their early 20s winning abroad."
Inspired by seniors
Like Himmat, Gaganjeet keeps drawing from instances that helped shape his career. Be it following the triumvirate during the Indian Open at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC) or the autographed cap, signed by Jeev on the 18th green of the DGC, the 23-year-old from Kapurthala cherishes them all.
Known for his aggressive style of play since early on, the eagerness to spread his wings was apparent as Bhullar and Anirban, who were part of the 2006 Doha Asian Games, shed the garb of amateurs within hours of winning India the team silver, and flew to Thailand to attend the Asian Tour's Q-School. If DGC's quaintness holds a special place in Gaganjeet's heart, of equal significance is Jyoti's touching gesture during the 2005 PSPB Open. "He walked a couple of holes to watch me and after the final round had words of encouragement. It was a heady feeling," said Gaganjeet, then the country's No. 1 amateur.
The Ghei influence
The trio's impact on Indian golf may be indelible, but equally profound is the effect of Gaurav Ghei on Anirban and Shiv Kapur. Among the first Indians to figure on the Asian Tour, Ghei had landed the 1995 Gadgil Western Masters title. The resonance of that epochal moment can still be felt at the DGC.
Engaged in a three-way playoff at the Panasonic Open in April, Anirban recounted the chain off events he had heard as a nine-year-old. Tracing Ghei's steps helped the 24-year-old come out stronger, the triumph breaking the jinx on the Asian Tour. Shiv, who did the scoring for Ghei's group, was impacted too. "I realised it was a cool life where one could travel the world and play."
The stirring tales have done much more than to inspire the present generation. "There is the belief that week-after-week we can go out and contend with the best," said Shiv.