Making a bold statement of commitment and ambition, seven-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar has shifted base to the US to train and practice under better facilities and instruction. This is the first time that an Indian pro has shifted base to America without having already secured PGA Tour or Web.com Tour playing rights. Time will tell how Bhullar’s move pays off and whether this could be a trend for other young talented Indian pros.
Over the past two decades South Korean lady pros have shifted base to USA in big numbers and this has led to their astounding dominance on the LPGA Tour. Their success may have well inspired Bhullar.
For a long time, the Kapurthala born and bred was working with Peter Wolfenstetter (Thongchai Jaidee’s coach), who is based out of Germany. Bhullar then decided to move to the US where most of his family have settled. It wasn’t long before he bumped into former cop turned golf professional Noah Montgomery. At first, Bhullar was working with Noah 4-5 times in a year when there was a drought of events on the Asian Tour. Seeing the significant improvement in his performances during that time, he made the big decision to relocate to the States (Sacramento, California).
“The primary objective of shifting to the US is to up my game and move to the next level. In the last two years of travelling to the US, I felt India doesn’t have the infrastructure or facilities which can help improve your skills manifold [sic]. And, let’s be honest no other country has embraced golf as the Americans have” Bhullar told Golf Digest India after his terrific wire-to-wire victory at the $500,000 Macao Open.
Bhullar said that with time one begins to lose grasp of the fundamentals after playing on different surfaces every week across the world. As an 8-year-old, he trained under former national coach, and current National Golf Academy of India (NGAI), director Jesse Grewal for 3 years. Bhullar credits Grewal for helping him become the golfer he is today. However, to break into the top-50 of the world, one needs to really take their game to the next level and that kind of coaching is significantly void at present in India.
“4 eyes are always better than 2. It’s difficult to keep an eye on your swing by yourself. There’s nobody to clear doubts or suggest a better strategy of playing in certain conditions. After my amateur career, I was pretty much on my own. When I was representing India in international tournaments, there was a national coach, a psychologist etc. to help you. But after that I didn’t find the right person” the Arjuna awardee elaborated.
The 9-time Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) title winner met current coach Noah Montgomery through fellow Asian Tour American professional, John Catlin.
“Gaganjeet (Bhullar) is a special player. There is no doubt about his talent. The only thing we are working together is his fundamentals. His ball striking has improved. He is able to hit 300-plus yards regularly in comparison to 280 yards he was driving earlier. His set-up is much better now and he can go through the ball more aggressively. When we started working, he was ranked 855th in the world, and we improved to 150th last year – when he won two Asian Tour titles in a close period,” Noah told Golf Digest India from Sacramento.
The unlimited play and practice facilities at his academy in Auburn will assist Bhullar to reach higher echelons of the golfing world.
“After a certain period, golfers develop a certain way of hitting the ball which might not be desirable. Their putting strokes don’t change much which becomes an impediment when they are playing on different surfaces and in varied weather conditions. For a professional who is aiming to move up in the world rankings, adaptability is key. At Auburn, we give each of the players a chance to practice on tougher greens: having deceptive gradients and faster surfaces. I always believe that random practice is better than block practice,” Noah explained.
With his long-time partner, Tim Cox, on the bag and his eyes firmly on the remainder of events on the Asian Tour, Bhullar aims to break into the top-50 of the world in the next couple of years.
He rose to World No. 85 in 2013 after his second-place finish at the $2.3 million Avantha Masters. With a perfect set-up in America, Bhullar is working towards fulfilling his true potential.
(Read more in the November issue of Golf Digest India. Download here.)