Rebuilding it from the scratch

Having overcome a career-threatening injury, Muniyappa targets India tour

Rebuilding it from the scratch

Apart from defeat, the two things every sportsperson dreads are injuries and loss of form. While some experience them separately during various stages of their career, for some, one leads to the other, often hauling them back to ground zero and forcing them to start all over again in the highly competitive world. 2009 Indian Open winner C Muniyappa is experiencing exactly this.

Seemingly destined for greater things since that sensational rags-to-riches triumph at the DLF Golf and Country Club, the 37-year-old caddie-turned-pro, over the years, has gone through a gamut of emotions which reached a crescendo this January at the Poona Golf Club.

Having completed the stunning transformation from a caddie, who earned a meager sum of Rupee one as a caddie at the Karnataka Golf Association to winning the coveted national open, Muniyappa was left to with no choice but to play the PGTI Q-School Final Stage after having lost the access cards to both the domestic and the Asian Tours at the end of last season.

It was an extremely painful pill to swallow for South India’s first Asian Tour winner whose career depended completely on those four days. While he tackled that challenge like a champion by posting a three-shot victory that secured his playing rights for the year, the horrendous fall from glory was not entirely his fault.

Playing, perhaps, his best golf which he mastered by just watching players on the course during his caddying and playing days and videos of greats on YouTube, Muniyappa’s world came crashing down at the end of 2010 season when he picked up a serious back injury.
The injury confined him to bed for nearly two months before he even began to walk again.

It took almost six months for him to hold a club and while he began his rehabilitation towards the latter part of the year, the physical and emotional scars from the injury took a heavy toll on him in 2012 where he failed miserably, leaving him with no spot in Asia or India.

“When I stood at the first tee box during the PGTI Q-School Final Stage, I nearly had tears in my eyes,” an emotional Muniyappa told Deccan Herald. “I was so lost for words. I was literally restarting my entire career. All my hard work and effort over the last 15 years seemed hinged on those four days. It was very tough.

“That’s why I feel an Indian winning the Indian Open should be given a 10-year exemption on the PGTI. You never know what can bring you down. Having said that, I realised there was no point letting the emotion or your ego get the better of you. Every sportsperson goes through ups and downs and this is my learning experience. You need to take everything on a positive note,” added Muniyappa, whose father worked as a greenskeeper at the KGA.

Muniyappa now aims to rebuild his career step by step just like he has done in the past. An affable character, who once feared winning only because he had to speak in English to handle himself alone abroad, Muniyappa has fought through various struggles since his childhood. And that experience is what he feels will help him regain the old glory that gave inspiration to plenty of caddies in the country.

“It’s not like I don’t kniw how to win or I’ve forgotten how to play golf. Injuries, especially career-threatening ones like I suffered, leave you scarred mentally and physically. You always think on what you could’ve achieved during that period.

“What I lacked in 2012 was confidence. It was zero. I knew how to strike the ball to the intended direction, I knew how to putt, but I just couldn’t do them. It was because of financial constraints. I spent Rs 20 lakh from my pocket to compete on the Asian Tour last year, but due to my poor form, I just made a little over Rs 2 lakh. A loss of Rs 18 lakh haunts you every time you strike a ball. It starts playing on your mind.

“So this year, my sole focus is the India tour where I’m targeting a top-10 finish.

Whatever Asian or European Tour events come my way during that period, I will play them. At the end of the year, I will think about going to Asia again,” added Muniyappa.
A lot of sportspersons employ mind coaches to strengthen themselves mentally in pursuit of glory. When asked if he too intends to tread the same path, Muniyappa felt that it ultimately boiled down to execution.

“All these mind coaches say plenty of things, but finally what you do on the course is what matters. It’s not like I’m averse to them.

“I was doing yoga on and off. I’ve been watching motivational videos on YouTube. I’m feeling more confident than I was six months ago. Recovery is a process and it takes time.”

While Muniyappa has shown some promise in the three domestic events this year so far, a superb launchpad awaits him at the February 26-March 1 SAIL-SBI Open, a PGTI-Asian Tour co-sanctioned event, in New Delhi. A win, or even a top-10 finish, could be the catalyst that he desperately needs.

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