12th time lucky – Shiv Kapur

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India’s Leading Pro Shiv Kapur Ended His 12-Year Title Drought On Asian Tour With Yeangder Heritage Triumph

Shiv Kapur’s excruciating wait for his second Asian Tour title got over with the Yeangder Heritage win in Chinese Taipei recently. The Delhi golfer had last won an Asian Tour title almost 12 years back with the 2005 Volvo Masters of Asia crown. The title had also helped him clinch the Rookie of the Year honours that year.

With his solid performances in the next couple of years he gained a full card on the European Tour, which became his home for most of his career with him playing selective events in Asia including the Hero Indian Open.

Kapur came tantalisingly close to winning a number of times. Unfortunately he couldn’t convert. He has 5 runner-up finishes and 4 third place results in his name. He ended between 4th and 10th place 24 times from 359 starts. That speaks volumes about the golfer who also briefly led the first round of the British Open in 2013 and won the individual gold medal for the nation at the 2002 Busan Asian Games in South Korea.

The 35-year-old also encountered a liver abscess surgery last year besides a long slump in form and intermittent periods of self-doubts. Fortunately for Indian golf fans, the problems are a thing of the past and Shiv foresees a brighter future in Asia, where he wants to concentrate his energies as of now. The soon-to-be father is hopeful of a massive turnaround in fortunes with the help of yoga and meditation and a new partnership with Shane Gillespie, his coach. Shiv is expecting the birth of his first child with wife Maya Gupta in August. The Arjuna awardee spoke about a large number of issues in an exclusive chat with Golf Digest India. Excerpts from the interview:

GDI: Many congratulations on your win, it was long due…

SK: Yeah, I came close a number of times. I always knew that I need to keep fighting and never give in. The preparation was the same, it was only that everything fell into the right places at the right time. The only thing I sensed was there was a change in my mindset playing the last few holes. Not being in the last group helped as the spotlight wasn’t on me. I didn’t even have a look at the leaderboard till the 9th hole. When I reached the 9th green I saw that I was 3 strokes behind.

I then thought if I could post 5-under on the back nine I have a chance to win. On the 17th I was 2 ahead (at 15-under-par) of the leading pack. But then I got to keep boxing along and I holed a birdie on the final hole to bolster my chances. And thankfully my strategy worked well. I am very happy to be back in the winner’s circle. Last year was very frustrating for me. Missing the cut at the Hero Indian Open due to one bad shot then my liver surgery and loss of form had created a lot of self-doubts and I am pretty satisfied to have got rid of it now.

GDI: Do you think you were guilty of returning to action sooner than expected after the liver surgery?

SK: As a competitor you want to be out of the hospital bed as soon as possible. I thought if I could walk, I could play as well. As a player or competitor your goal is to win the tournament. But when I reached the course I felt really weak. I realized my rehab was not complete. It actually set me back rather than putting me in front.

GDI: Your last win came in 2013 on the European Challenge Tour at the Dubai Festival City Grand Final. You also hit the headlines that year for leading the British Open in Round 1. Where did you lose your way after that?

SK: I had lost my European Tour card in 2012 that was a big jolt for me to buck up, step up my game. So, I knew I had to put my 200% to work my way back. I won the Gujarat Kensville Challenge in Ahmedabad and then backed it up with a runner-up finish in China at the Foshan Open. I also won the Shubhkamna Tournament of Champions (Jeev Milkha Singh’s event) before winning the Dubai Grand Final. I also qualified for the US Open next year and scripted my best finish (tied 23rd). At that time I felt I need to work a bit harder and   become a more complete player. But that didn’t work. In trying to become the best I took a step back. I tried all sorts of stuff and then the lean spell kicked in. Doubts began to creep in and motivation levels dropped. Thankfully, golfers have a longer shelf life. So, I kept working hard and resolved not to give up soon. It paid off finally.

GDI: So, what did you do differently in the past 6-8 months that have fetched you the results?

SK: After the Hero Indian Open I told myself not to be complacent. I decided that 2017 should be a better year than 2016. I chalked out a plan and started working mentally and physically. I got a new coach Shane Gillespie 6 months back. He worked on the short game of Chiragh Kumar and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh in December. That’s how I got introduced to him. I liked the way he simplified complicated golfing concepts. I worked with him for 2 weeks in Taiwan before going to Japan. I missed cut there and again worked with him for a few days before the Taipei event. So, in all it’s working fine for me till now. I also had the opportunity to meet my former swing coach Jamie Gough in Malaysia but as he is based out of the US it becomes difficult for me to get time with him.

What I realized during my lean phase is that I need to strengthen the mental side of my game. I want to bottle up the mental state I was in Chinese Taipei. The way I sank 5 birdies in the last 7 holes there strengthened my confidence. I always had the game it was only the conversion part and that has to do with my mental zone. I need to be in a calm mental zone and that I think is key to performing consistently. I am planning to get into yoga and meditation heavily. Jeev has also recommended a meditation guru to me.

GDI: So which tour you want to focus more now – Europe or Asia?

SK: I have now decided to concentrate my energies upon Asia. Winning more here, getting on to the EurAsia Cup team and finishing atop the Order of Merit by the year-end. I was guilty of playing two tours. In the light of the recent alliance with European Tour, Asian Tour members will have more starts in Europe. They will get better ranking points and also more chances of getting invitations to premier tournaments.

GDI: Tell us about your initiative in Bulgaria and how did that come about? Any particular reason for staging it there? How do you want to grow the event?

SK: It’s a fun tournament. It’s more of a friendly get-together. 40-50 of my friends play in it and I get to interact with them and spend time with them once in a year. I want to keep it as a Pro-Am only. I loved the hospitality and the topography of Bulgaria. They are very warm people and are extremely eager to help the guests. Plus they have a couple of very good properties like the Lighthouse Golf Resort and Thracian Cliffs Resort which give you spectacular views of the Black Sea. As a brand ambassador I will try to promote it as a golfing destination to everyone. I also have a bar in my name ‘Shiv’s Bar’, which lends me that ownership feeling.

GDI: Tell us about your initiative in Bulgaria and how did that come about? Any particular reason for staging it there? How do you want to grow the event?

GDI: You tied the knot with childhood friend Maya Gupta on April 3 last year. How has life changed post marriage? Any plans of starting a family?

SK: It’s been a pleasant change. All my life I have been thinking of myself. Now I have to take care of another person as well. Maya has been a pillar of strength for me. She has seen me through the lows (Good amount of it) (Laughs) but someone who has seen that phase will be the best person to celebrate the highs. Life’s perspective has changed. We are expecting a third member in the family in August and so giving time to her and my child is a priority now. I am going to take entire August off for them. By God’s grace this win has come at the best time possible.

GDI: You have commentated during Hero Indian Open and other prominent Asian Tour events too. Any plans of taking up television as an alternate career?

SK: Obviously I will look at this avenue after I bid adieu to the sport. Commentary has always interested me.

GDI: Are you also into some sort of adventure sport?

SK: I have always been a multi-dimensional person. I like to try out different things. I have done skydiving with Jyoti (Randhawa). I also practice trap & shot gun shooting, I did that in Bulgaria. In my spare time I love to play tennis and cricket. I am a huge Sachin Tendulkar fan. I also like fast cars and own BMW M3 as a prized possession.

GDI: What has been your relationship with actor Vinod Khanna, who passed away recently?

SK: He was my father’s childhood friend. He was a great supporter of mine and my career and always had great advice to offer on golf and life. We often spoke about spirituality and how it would help me on the golf course. He also came for the launch of my maiden venture Golf Premier League in 2013. More than being a great actor and politician, he will forever be remembered as a great human being and that’s a great legacy to leave behind.

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