Inside the Ropes with Anirban Lahiri

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Seven global career wins including two in 2015; Currently in the Top 100  in the Official World Golf Rankings, best finish by an Indian in a Major (T5- PGA Championship 2015),  first Indian to play  the President’s Cup, an Olympian, member of the Eurasia Cup team and a loving husband- that’s quite a resume to have at 29!

We got a chance to catch up with the current flag bearer of Indian golf Anirban Lahiri at his home course – Eagleton Golf Resort, Bengaluru. He is now successfully on his second year on the PGA Tour and has made a total of 35 out of 47 cuts on the PGA Tour thus far with total earnings of US$ 2.19mn. Here’s to getting to know ‘Baan’..Read on..

Describe a Day in the life of Baan?

During Season– Early start like all pros. Practice rounds before the tournament starts and then hit the range after each round. This year adjusting to jet lag has been something I have done a lot. Just ensuring that the body clock is reset and that all systems are ‘go’ in time for Thursday. Playing on three different tours in 2015 was a serious concern so it took a lot more effort. I generally eat dinner by 7:30pm and get to my room by 9pm at the latest. I like to dedicate an hour to myself to call home or watch something on Youtube. On days that we have an early round you could wake up as early at 4:15am, so it’s important to get sleep. I am a light sleeper so for me 6-7 hours is more than a good night’s sleep.

Off Season– I divide my time between work and family. I just got back from a lovely vacation at Ananda in the Himalayas which felt like detox especially after a gruelling 2015. I generally wake up by 6 am and hit the gym for some stretches and yoga to get the muscles ready for the day. I then putt and chip for about 45 minutes before breakfast. After that I hit the range with my coach Vijay Divecha. We work on various aspects like chipping, putting or some swing techniques for about 3- 4 hours. I usually just take a 30 min lunch break and get back to work on the short game or play 9 holes. I’m not a machine, so I take breaks in between to check my phone or chat with someone..one just can’t focus on the game for that long. I hit the gym by 5 pm for an hour of cardio or strength training and it’s early dinner and bed after that.

Describe your meditation routine or a few basic yoga asanas that you highly recommend?

There are three asanas that I definitely recommend. Parsvottanasana (side stretch), Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) or ideally Sirsasana (head stand) but that is really hard to do and Halasana (the plough) which stretches out your entire back.

I practice Vipassana for meditation and recommend professional training in it if you choose to follow it. I have a lot of friends and golfers who have benefitted from yoga and its great overall.

Swing Thought: What goes on in your mind when you’re addressing the ball and about to start your takeaway?

Before I pull the trigger, I visualize the type of shot; whether it’s a draw, a fade, a flop or anything and then draw an imaginary line to my target.

What do you do when your round isn’t going well? Any tips for golfers out there to bear in mind when it’s an ‘off’ day?

If I am not swinging it the way I want I try to simplify my round. Just focus on your go-to club or go-to shot and focus on hitting just one fairway and then one green and so on. Simplify everything to a single shot.  I don’t think about whether I need to birdie the next three holes or par them or any of those things. Just keep it simple.

Obviously, a lot has been said about 2015 being your year. Do you feel that you left anything out there or did you give it your best? 

I have always approached my golf in a methodical manner. I set myself some realistic targets and when you achieve them, you reset your targets. I don’t generally reflect too much. For 2015, the start of the year was fantastic because I achieved some of my goals early on i.e. retain my European Tour card, win on the European Tour, break into the top 50 in world rankings and get into the Masters. These happened in quick succession and eased a lot of pressure allowing me to reset my targets. The next targets then logically became to get into the President’s Cup team, get my PGA Tour Card and perform well in the Majors. So essentially I just keep shifting focus and try not to get complacent. It has happened to me early in my career, where I got complacent after winning and it really set me back by a few months. So over the years, I have taught myself to keep refocusing and resetting to maintain the same focus throughout the year.

Selfie-time! with Chikkarangappa & coach Vijay Divecha

Did I leave anything out there? Yes, definitely. I felt I ran out of gas towards the end of the year, more from all the trans-continental travel which took a toll on my body. Starting with the President’s Cup, it was very disappointing for me to do as poorly as I did that week… then to not do well in the last few events left a bitter taste, especially to end what was a good year. At the same time, I am learning from that and am definitely going to schedule 2016 better and cut down on my big jet lag travel! You don’t realize these things until you have done it and that’s part of the learning.

Targets for 2016?

I fly straight to Palm Springs, California right after the Eurasia Cup and play the CareerBuilder Challenge. Goal wise, I would love to start the new season on a new tour with a win. That would be utopian, like this year for instance. Wining early in the year opens up the rest of the year. Historically I have done well early in the season…my first win was the Panasonic Open 2011 on the Asian Tour which was early on and the following two years the SAIL-SBI Open which were early on as well and then of course the 2015 wins. So I have been getting off to good starts and hope to do that in America.

My target now would be to play well in the Majors and the WGC’s and also to do well in Rio at the Olympics. I am likely to make the team and hope I peak at that time to give myself a good run at a medal. I will try to keep improving myself and work hard to break into the top 20-25 in the world rankings and get into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Those are aggressive but realistic targets I am setting myself.

Olympic golf back after 112 years. Olympic Gold versus a win at the Majors? Both equally big. What would do more for Indian golf?

On a personal note, a Major would definitely supersede the medal and that is true for most professional golfers.

Anirban with his father Dr. Tushar Lahiri

Winning a major is the pinnacle of professional achievement for a golfer. That being said, an Olympic medal would definitely do more for Indian Golf, but only if it’s gold! It will definitely make a bigger ripple than a Major in terms of the media, the government support and growing fans.

How much of an influence does your caddie Rajiv Sharma have on your golf? Will he be with you for the full PGA Tour season?

Rajiv will be with me for the full season and we really work well as a team and have good synergy on the golf course. He understands my game and my attitude. He is also an extremely positive person and a quick learner so I am very happy to have him with me on the PGA Tour. He also has a young family, so he will be missing in action a couple of weeks here and there. I think for him personally it is exceptional to be out there in America and for other Indian caddies he is an inspiration as he will be the first caddy from India to be on the PGA Tour and why not!

Would you like to comment on the support from your sponsors?

Definitely and I appreciate the opportunity to do so. Hero has been with me for six years now. I remember I came on board with Hero Motocorp even before I had won in Asia, so their support has been there from before I ever started doing anything in the world of golf. I am really grateful to the Hero Group and Mr. Pawan Munjal, not just for myself but for the multitude of players he has sponsored. I think it’s thanks to the Hero Group that the Indian Open has remained one of the most prestigious events in Asia. If you look at the Philippines Open, which is the oldest national open but is only a $300,000 event without live TV, that could have easily have been the case for the Indian Open had it not been for his support. I am so thankful to be part of a group that has contributed so much to golf and to other sports such as football and hockey etc. A big thank you to them.

Even though I don’t wear GATTI KWE’s (logistics company) logo today, they supported me when I was an amateur up until the first couple of years as a professional. If it wasn’t for their help, I probably wouldn’t have been playing professional golf because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Their CEO- Mr. Mahindra Agarwal is another person who I have a lot of respect for and who has done a lot for me at a time when it mattered more than ever!

I have been with Srixon and used their clubs ever since I turned professional and enjoy playing with their clubs. I will continue with them for 2016/ 17 as well. My other sponsors Hinduja Global Solutions, Mastercard and Chervo are newer relationships and I am grateful to have their support.

Words of wisdom or encouragement for other rising stars with a huge golfing career ahead of them?

I think it’s only a matter of time when more of my peers join me company in America. They are all very talented and it’s only a matter of time before they harness their full potential.

I think it’s fantastic to see Aditi Ashok right now. It’s great to see an Indian girl at the young age of 17 breaking mental barriers to perform at that level and I just hope she keeps her head down and keeps going. She is already doing things that no Indian girl or woman has ever done and hopefully continues to set new benchmarks for others to aspire to achieve. I wish her all the luck and hope she keeps doing whatever she’s doing because it is just fantastic!

Do you have plans to help grow the game at the grassroots level in India?

That is definitely something I want to do, but yes, it is a bit premature right now. Hopefully, in five years when we chat again and I would have been playing on the PGA Tour and even better, with a Major under my belt, I would be able to share more. It’s important to have those wins as it gives me a lot more to work with…to mobilize more support from sponsors and the government because that is what is required for golf development in India. But it definitely is very high on my priority list as this game has given me everything I have today and I definitely will give back.

 

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