When he's not crisscrossing the country on tour, he teaches golf at his home course in Patna. Golf landed him a job in the Railways. So, it's only natural that veteran pro, Md Islam, shares his knowledge of the sport even when he's on the road — or the railroad.
"He calls me 'uncle'," said Islam of young Mhow-based pro, Om Prakash Chouhan. "For the past couple of years, we've been travelling and staying together on tour. Whenever he needs guidance, I'm there for him."
It wasn't until April this year, though, that the mentorship bore fruit. Going into the final day of the PGTI event at Pune's Oxford Club, OP, as Chouhan is popularly known, held a three-stroke lead. "He was nervous, and asked me 'Uncle, how will I win?' I told him not to think of what the others are doing, and just plan for pars. If the birdies drop, well and good," recalled Islam. OP went on to win his maiden pro title.
Three decades' worth of experience isn't just for the benefit of his "nephew" --- it's also for Islam to draw upon when the chips are down.
Like in 2011, a bittersweet year, which saw him go from winning his seventh pro title (a PGTI Feeder Tour event in Patna) to losing his playing rights on the main tour. "It was the first time since 1983 (the year he turned pro) that I was not in the merit list," said Islam. "Worried about my brother's marriage, I did not travel to Bombay and Jamshedpur, and finished just outside the top 60."
Forced to make a return via the qualifying school, Islam was determined. "Sometimes, you need to be jolted. I told myself 'improve, or quit'." The road to improvement was paved with at least nine holes and around 300 balls a day. Four top-15 finishes are proof that the hard work is beginning to pay off. Friday's card of four-under 68 here just corroborates the evidence.
Of course, there's room for more. "I aim to win, if not this year, then by next. And even if I don't, the fact that I tried and played an improved game will be good enough."