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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Lone wolf Aman Raj eyes breakthrough

Aman owes it to his father Shashi Raj Sinha, a top amateur of his time, that he taught Aman in a way that the son has had little trouble adapting to superior surfaces.

other-sports Updated: Sep 13, 2019 23:56 IST
Robin Bose
Robin Bose
Mewat (Haryana)
File photo of Aman Raj.
File photo of Aman Raj.(HT FIle Photo)

Aman Raj, 24, has played the Patna Golf Club since he was three; and from the beginning it was about adjusting on a course that is anything but a quality practice facility. The way to beat the odds was to visualise and strategise as if he was playing a signature course. It was easier said than done as the 103-year-old venue, short in length and low on maintenance, was a test of patience.

Aman owes it to his father Shashi Raj Sinha, a top amateur of his time, that he taught Aman in a way that the son has had little trouble adapting to superior surfaces. It’s a rare quality, which has come with years of practice, and there was satisfaction as he shot a consecutive five-under 67 on Friday at this Jack Nicklaus-designed course to trail the leader by two shots at the Classic Golf & Country Club International Championship.

Such has been his training that one look is enough to “tell me if the grass is crap and the way to go about tackling the golf course”. While Aman hopes to keep getting better at this art, there were other battles to be fought as he was growing up.

While members of the club, which shares its boundary with Aman’s school on Bailey Road, got used to seeing the lone boy turn up for practice without fail; for Aman, the challenge was to turn solitude into an advantage. “The way I looked at it was being the only junior around was something to be proud of and the members acknowledged that.” His school, Kendriya Vidyalaya, was appreciative as well.

The principal once posted a giant banner after Aman had represented the country at a junior event in Malaysia. Till date, recollecting that moment of seeing his photograph and write-up on the school gate gives goose-bumps and perhaps equals his breakthrough win on the Professional Golf Tour of India a year back in Jaipur.

Hailing from a family that found it tough to support his passion, even though the parents never made it apparent, Aman had to face another test to be where he is. After turning professional in 2016, Aman travelled to Thailand for Asian Tour’s qualifying school but had to come back after fracturing his jaw following a fall in the bathroom.

The surgeon took four hours to set the face right and he was out of action for two months, weak in body and spirit with the teeth tied up and surviving on liquid diet. But the phase held life lessons. “I got better at judging people and left me even more determined to succeed.” Should he win on the Asian Tour come Sunday, it will be another breakthrough moment and a vindication of belief.

Leaderboard (top-five)

132: Rory Hie (64, 68)

133: Abhijit Chadha (68, 65)

134: Aman Raj (67, 67); Kosuke Hamamoto (69, 65); Rashid Khan (68, 66)

(Cut applied at one-under 143)

First Published: Sep 13, 2019 23:54 IST