On a comeback journey

On a comeback journey

Former champ Muniyappa hopes to have injury-free campaign

The worst nightmare that a sportsperson can encounter during his playing days is a career-threatening injury, especially when his game is coming together very nicely. That is precisely what happened to the gifted C Muniyappa.

A year after he triggered a wave of motivational stories after registering an emotional play-off victory in the 2009 Indian Open that also gave his promising career a major uplift, the world came crashing down for the caddie-turned-pro in Hong Kong.

Enjoying a decent outing in his second full season on the Asian Tour, the 35-year-old experienced severe pain in his left leg during the Hong Kong Open in October 2010 before being diagnosed with disc bulging of the sciatic nerves (L4 and L5) that causes shooting pain through the legs.

Although he did return to defend his Indian Open crown which he eventually surrendered to Swede Rikard Karlberg, Muniyappa was laid low for the whole of 2011 -- his only appearance being the Avantha Masters early that year.

However, as he has often done since his childhood battling numerous odds with a quiet confidence and an unassuming smile, Muniyappa is slowly overcoming the nagging injury, although it continues to trouble him since his comeback in April this year.
“I saw a lot of doctors, ranging from orthopedics to neurologists to ayurvedics during the period but found very little solution,” said Muniyappa, who has played six events since returning but is fighting to stay fit in time for the Indian Open after a re-occurrence of the pain two weeks ago.

“Health wise, I’m just 90 per cent fit. The injury re-occurred during the second round of Crompton Greaves Open in Mumbai two weeks ago. I still played the event and finished 31st.

“The Indian Open is too big an event and considering it is happening at my home course (KGA), I didn’t want to aggravate the injury, and decided to pull out of the Bilt Open. I’m feeling much better now and hope to recover in time for the Indian Open.”
Muniyappa, a self-taught golfer who has always believed playing is the best form of practice, said he has learnt a very important lesson during this phase.

“I realised how important fitness is for a golfer... in fact for any sportsperson. Most of us just keep playing and practising without concentrating on the fitness part. We are just too focussed on the game and forget to maintain our body. I’ve learnt how important exercises are to prolong your career. Nowadays, I try to balance my time on the range and gym.”

Come Thursday, when the 2012 Indian Open kicks off at the Karnataka Golf Association, Muniyappa -- if fit -- will be teeing off at a place where his parents worked as greenskeepers and he started his tryst with golf at age seven as a forecaddie. Although, he knows the conditions like the back of his hands, Muniyappa was modest about his chances.

“Firstly, I hope to recover in time. Having said that, I feel whoever plays well for four days, and with India having a lot of talented players, I’m confident one of us will win it. Anirban (Lahiri) has been playing well, while (Gaganjeet) Bhullar is coming off a victory (Venetian Macau Open). Apart from them, there are quite of few who can prove to be the surprise package. I hope to do well.”

With a focus on playing an entire season on the Asian Tour next year, Muniyappa will be leaving to Las Vegas next month for a three-day coaching session at the famous Butch Harmon School of Golf to fine tune his craft.

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