Masculinity is not all about brawn. It encompasses the ability to keep the chin up in times of adversity. The belief that the battle to keep the swing going is not for a lost cause, has often led Jeev Milkha Singh to jest about his tussle with pain, a near constant in his life for a while now.
During one of his rare appearances on home soil, Jeev, then among the world’s top-50, ran into an acquaintance as he entered the clubhouse to submit his card. A glint of recognition in the eyes, the large frame stopped short.
“I thought you were not playing,” said Jeev. “I wasn’t but when I learned that you were here, I changed my mind,” came the reply.
Pretending to take offence, Jeev snarled, “Don’t sound as if you’re talking to a woman, I’m a man.” The youngster was quick to second the remark, “You’re the man.”The reverence was apparent, but as one who had closely tracked Jeev’s frequent brush with injuries, the lad knew the words did not smack of male prejudice, but were borne out of the determination to stay injury free.
The desire has been expressed several times, but it could not have been more explicit than on Sunday at the Castle Stuart Golf Links, where Jeev broke a four-year title drought.
“I never doubted it. I knew if I hung in there and did the right stuff, good things would follow.”
Proof lay in the Scottish Open trophy that the broad fingers were ensconced around.
Away from the applause, it has been a grim but silent battle to emerge from pain. Numerous visits to the physiotherapist, MRI scans, painkillers and skipping practice rounds were things he had come to accept grudgingly, but deep down, the process also steeled his quest for excellence.
Jeev struck a purple patch in 2008, which saw him pick up titles across continents, but what stood out was that the crest came at a time when he was nursing an inflamed tendon in the right ankle. He was not done yet. A top-10 at the PGA Championship made him the first Indian to do so in a Major.
After qualifying for this week’s Major, courtesy Sunday’s win, the mind would surely wander to the time when he had to pull out of The Open Championship, without a tee up, after failing to break the pain barrier.
The reflection won’t last for long though. Free of pain and little to stop him from “trusting himself”, Jeev is excited by another week at a links course. “It requires a lot of imagination and feel, and that’s how I feel golf should be played,” he chirped happily.