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Gaganjeet Bhullar to Aditi Ashok: A year of comebacks and bright stars in golf

Gaganjeet Bhullar made a brilliant comeback with two titles in the year while Aditi Ashok established herself as a future star in the world of golf.

Year ender 2016 Updated: Dec 30, 2016 20:35 IST
Robin Bose
Robin Bose
Hindustan Times
Gaganjeet Bhullar,Aditi Ashok,SSP Chawrasia
Aditi Ashok has established herself as a future star in the world of golf in 2016.(AFP)

In corporate parlance, when the going is tough, hope isn’t good enough. A plan needs to be in place as well. In sport, it is practice and belief that sets the tone for a better tomorrow. Never mind the heartbreaks that come in the way, for they firm the resolve.

No one epitomizes this better than SSP Chawrasia and the journey to discover himself and what he can accomplish as a golfer. “When I started out, I was nobody, but golf showed the way,” he said after ending a 17-year wait in March.

Winning the Hero Indian Open was significant, considering it was his fifth attempt at the title. He accepted it with humility, but reared in adversity, it was a throwback for the genial golfer in his hour of glory.

S.S.P. Chawrasia of India tees off during the third day of the World Cup of Golf. ( AFP )

Perseverance pays, he said, happy to get back playing rights on the European Tour after an absence. Life’s lessons have taught him to view situations differently.

“Good or bad times don’t last. The need is to not get carried away, but do what’s required (practice harder),” he said after recording his second win of the season at the Manila Masters.

Stories of grit abound, and when downturn strikes a proud and fierce competitor, the turnaround is nothing short of inspirational.

Gaganjeet Bhullar was at his peak when a grade 2 ligament tear in the right wrist laid him low in 2013. He wasn’t prepared as niggles were all he had to contend with till then. The forearm in a cast, it was a grim reminder of the travails of a sportsperson. But Bhullar wasn’t one to dwell on it for long as “he’s too young to bother on the fallout”.

Gaganjeet Bhullar poses with the trophy after winning the Bank BRI - JCB Indonesia Open 2016 title. ( AFP )

What stood by him was belief. “My faith (in Sikhism) is intact and that’s all I care for,” said Bhullar. A look at his staff bag explains it. On the front flap, the Khanda (symbol of his faith) has a pride of place along with the Tricolour.

The two wins this year added to his five titles in Asia, and the 28-year-old goes into the new year with the feeling of “being in the zone”. There is the awareness that the putter will go off the boil now and then; when it doesn’t it will be a step towards the goal of “more than 10 titles on the Asian Tour”.

Over the years, Anirban Lahiri has come to exemplify how working at setting goals can be a route to success. The upshot he talks about could be disrupted, but that isn’t a worry. “It might go down, but as long as it goes back up by resetting the bar and pushing yourself, that’s what matters,” he says.

After a phenomenal 2015, which saw him win twice on the European Tour, and the T5 at the PGA Championship aiding his elevation to the PGA Tour, Anirban had a comparatively quiet year. Still, he came close to winning thrice on different tours.

Aditi Ashok of India plays a shot on the 10th hole during the revised 2nd round of Dubai Ladies Masters golf tournament in Dubai. ( AP )

If the year symbolised a comeback of sorts, it also witnessed a fairytale beginning. True to her youthfulness, Aditi Ashok is happy to share that she has a different ball marker for all days of competition. They may be her lucky charms, but her presence in top-flight golf isn’t by chance. The campaign to get better is fuelled by the childhood desire to be a pro.

Now that she’s doing it for a living, a dream has come true. Breaking on to the Ladies European Tour (LET) in the rookie year would have been sufficed, not so for Aditi. Winning twice (including the Women’s Indian Open), she finished No 2 on the order of merit.

More was to come as she secured a conditional card on the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and will be joined on the LET by Amandeep Drall, Vani Kapoor and Neha Tripathi, who secured full status.

It all started at the Rio Olympics for Aditi. Unlike Anirban and Chawrasia, who faced issues on and off the Olympic Golf Course, playing with few expectations worked. After contending for the initial part, inexperience came in the way but there was no regret, as she came away happy to get the spotlight on women’s golf in India.

First Published: Dec 30, 2016 20:35 IST