Shubhankar Sharma’s form has been a source of excitement and joy for Indian fans lately. In the past, Indians would contend for international pro titles regularly and win quite often especially on the Asian Tour. However Indian fans are currently enduring the longest victory drought since the mid 1990’s when Jeev, Randhawa and Atwal emerged and won international titles with joyful regularity. It’s been 3 years since the last international victory by an Indian man when Gaganjeet Bhullar won his 10th Asian Tour title at the Fiji Open in August 2018. After that Diksha Dagar won on the Ladies European Tour in March 2019 in South Africa. Nothing since. The last time an Indian was in the top 100 rankings was Feb 2018 when Sharma won the Maybank Malaysian Open a few weeks after winning in South Africa.
So now with Shubhankar contending regularly in Europe and finishing a hugely creditable 3rd in Spain last week, fans have reason to cheer. The 25 year old certainly has shown he can win again and that time may come in the next month, we hope.
All the years from around 1996 to around 2014 while the trio of Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa and Arjun Atwal flew the Indian flag globally, on their own talent and not coming through any Indian system, Indian golf authorities were lulled into a sense of complacency, thinking a system had produced these players.
However during this time, countries in Europe and Asia, particularly China and Thailand were institutionalising their junior golf development , developing coaches and coaching programs, setting in place systems and pathways, and growing the number of competitive juniors on a monumental scale. Today the gap between India’s program and the programs in developed nations and the Asian forces of Korea, Japan, Thailand and China has grown wider than ever before.
We need to ask ourselves how do we create a pipeline of Shubhankars, Lahiris, Aditi Ashok’s and Gaganjeet Bhullars ? How do we get 5 players to be on the PGA and LPGA Tours instead of one. We have produced tremendous junior talent over the past two decades but few have been able to make the leap from Asia to Europe and even less to America. Now is the time to understand the struggles junior golfers and their families go through to keep up with global competition, coaching, physical strength training, injury recovery and playing conditions.
Do we have a support system and a planned pathway to help our most talented juniors make it to the world level ? Or do we leave it to their parents and chance ? Playing internationally is a hugely expensive proposition and one that also requires tremendous experience and guidance. Indian golf needs a team of dedicated professional experts who can provide that guidance to each wave of new youngsters and not leave it to them to reinvent the wheel. A properly structured national level program can deliver the results, as has been proven in the other countries.
It is time to look forward, now that the pandemic has passed and pave the way for our juniors to succeed.