More champs join the parade

More champs join the parade

The main protagonist Anirban Lahiri had a very subdued year but his co-stars ensured Indian golf laughed all the way to the box office with blistering performances as the sport enjoyed another glorious year, the depth in talent coming to the fore.

Veteran SSP Chawarasia, seasoned campaigner Shiv Kapur and Lahiri's contemporary Gaganjeet Bhullar all oozed class while the highly-rated Ajeetesh Sandhu finally broke his title duck and the talented Shubhankar Sharma pocketed a European Tour event in what can be termed as a wonderful season for Indian golf.

Chawrasia, the ever-smiling golfer known for his brilliant game around the greens, laid the foundation for a strong season by successfully retaining the Hero Indian Open, scoring a smashing seven-shot victory at the DLF Golf and Country Club. The victory took Chawrasia's European tour tally to four, on par with legend Jeev Milkha Singh.

Kapur, once rated as the next big thing but who has flattered to deceive, then ended an 11-year wait for a second Asian Tour title after scoring a sensational win at the Yeangder Heritage in Chinese Taipei in April. In September 2016, Kapur had undergone a liver surgery and his playing career seemed at the crossroads but the Delhiite, another affable character who sports a smile even when the chips are down, fought through the illness bravely to emerge as one the stories of the season.

Things just kept getting better for the 35-year-old who also realised his lifelong dream of being crowned a champion at his home course - the famed Delhi Golf Club - last month. Playing with a new-found determination and drive, Kapur tamed the arduous fairways and monstrous roughs of DGC, clinching the Panasonic Open India for an emotional victory.

Bhullar, another gifted golfer who sadly hasn't been able to migrate fully to Europe or US for various reasons, showed his prowess in Asia by scoring a commanding wire-to-wire win at the Macao Open in October. Not only did the 29-year-old retain the title, he became the first player to win his eighth Asian Tour trophy before turning 30. He became the youngest as well to achieve that feat.

Sandhu, of Bhullar's age, was tipped to carry Indian golf forward at the start of the decade but the Chandigarh pro just couldn't get the results his talent merited. However, years of underachievement ended at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship at Chinese Taipei as he secured his maiden victory in the continent. What made the win even more special for Sandhu was he achieved it even without having a full Asian tour card, the second such player to do so.

Shubhankar, who has been making heads turn over the last couple of years with his exploits on the domestic tour, triumphed at the Joburg Open, an event co-sanctioned with the European Tour. At 21, he became the third youngest winner of an Asian Tour event.

Aditi Ashok, the flag-bearer for women's golf in the country, continued to do so again this year. Shuffling between Europe and America, Aditi couldn't match her deeds of 2016 but still posted a win on the Ladies European Tour, standing tall in the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open at Abu Dhabi.

While there was success galore, Lahiri struggled in his sophomore year on the PGA. He did have five top-10 finishes but eight missed cuts dulled the picture. Still the highest-ranked India golfer, Lahiri competed in two majors, missing the cut in one and finishing 75th in the other. Twice he came close to becoming the second Indian to win on the PGA Tour but fell agonisingly short.

Lahiri, still a cardholder on the PGA, will be hoping to end his title drought next year while the vast array of talented golfers will be itching to get their names inscribed on trophies.

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