Ajeetesh Sandhu takes the lead on opening day of Panasonic Open golf
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Ajeetesh Sandhu takes the lead on opening day of Panasonic Open golf

Ajeetesh Sandhu took the lead on the opening day of the Panasonic Open golf tournament while Shiv Kapur trailed behind by one stroke.

other sports Updated: Nov 02, 2017 19:32 IST
Robin Bose
Robin Bose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ajeetesh Sandhu,Shiv Kapur,Panasonic Open
Ajeetesh Sandhu took the lead on the opening day of the Panasonic Open golf tournament ahead of Shiv Kapur.(Arep Kulal / Asian Tour)

Life on tour can be cruel. Since his early days, Ajeetesh Sandhu has been vocal about the parents’ role in his progress. But the past month, when he needed them most, they were in Chandigarh.

Uniting for the Panasonic Open, Ajeetesh, the clubhouse leader by one at eight-under 64 on Thursday, has brought joy closer home, but optimism is muted as golf can be unpredictable.

The night before the opening round at the Delhi Golf Club, there were tight embraces and moist eyes as they met for the first time since Ajeetesh’s hot streak commenced with his first win on the Asian Tour in early October.

Ajeetesh at 29 still credits the parents for helping him “draw boundaries early on”. One of them was that golf and education had to go hand-in-hand till he completed college. “That was non-negotiable,” said Ajeetesh.

Handling conditions well

The lesson of taking a step at a time has crept into strategy as well. An early morning tee-off on Thursday meant the course would play a tad longer, given the moist conditions. Shooting a low card is always the objective, but Ajeetesh did not let the thought lurk.

The birdie on the opening hole bore testimony that focus was on the next shot than the objective of making rapid progress on the leaderboard.

The past few weeks have helped him mature, and that he feels holds the key to his form of late. “Winning is a validation of the effort that’s gone in and strengthens inner belief,” said Ajeetesh.

The shift hasn’t changed the reaction to pressure situations though. “A winner’s tag doesn’t count when you’re under the gun, the butterflies flutter anyway.” An instance was the bogey on the third hole, his lone blemish of the day.

Though focused, the outcome will be accepted irrespective of what lies ahead as the lesson handed down is not to look back.

This helped tide over the lean times and will aid Ajeetesh as he bids to play more regularly in Japan, a land not frequented by Indians.

In Jeev’s footsteps

Jeev Milkha Singh was an exception and tales of his four wins there were instrumental in getting Ajeetesh interested. After experiencing it for himself and winning on the challenge tour, he is excited about the future.

It will be tough to gain a foothold in the fiercely competitive tour, but Jeev’s legacy has made it somewhat easier. “The moment people know I come from his city (Chandigarh), they put me on a pedestal.”

Acceptance hasn’t been a problem, but the onus will be on Ajeetesh to make the most of the opportunities he gets next season. It will be one step at a time, for that’s the way he’s learnt golf.

First Published: Nov 02, 2017 19:32 IST