Young gun on the rise

Young gun on the rise

Shubhankar Sharma was not surprised by his win at the recent Joburg Open, a feat which made the Indian golf fraternity swell with pride. The 21-year-old, who had turned pro before his 17th birthday, however, always held the faith of scripting something special early in his career.

The win in only his 10th European Tour start made Shubhankar the youngest Indian to win on the European Tour. Importantly, Shubhankar also assured himself a start in his first Major at the British Open at Carnoustie in July 2018. The youngster was recently felicitated by DLF, which also supports him.

When talking about golf, Shubhankar radiates the maturity which helped him grab success at such a young age. There is clarity and conviction in his decisions. "I turned pro very early into my career. It helped as I matured early. A lot of people told me not to turn pro at that time but I thought I was ready and I wanted to set the bar higher for myself. Even when I was 15 or 16, I won the amateur championship and was the youngest to do so. I have always pushed myself. I thought I would learn more turning professional at a younger age and getting a head start then just staying amateur," says Shubhankar, who was encouraged by his father, Col ML Sharma, to take the jump into the pro circuit.

"That was the plan, to win as soon as possible but you never know in golf. In golf anything is possible, you can have a great week, you may be playing very well and then you falter at the last stage. So I always expected. Because I turned pro very early it was not like it came as a shock to me. Obviously, it was a great victory. I knew if I play my best I can beat anyone at any given stage. That week happened but not that I was surprised. I always thought I had it in me to play well."

Reflecting on the Joburg Open, which he had initially planned to skip, Shubhankar says: "The best thing was that I was very calm and composed throughout. This is the first time probably when I never went ahead of myself. Even when I was leading by five shots. That's why it was one of my best performances.

"It was not that I was hitting fantastic, I have hit the ball better. But I was able to recover from everywhere. My putting was fantastic that week, I did the right thing at the right time."

The 21-year-old had made a slow start to 2017 before gaining form in the later half where he clinched the TAKE Open Golf Championship in October and Mcleod Russel Tour Championships in December on the PGTI tour before closing the year with Joburg Open.

"I have matured over the years as a player, I am just finding small faults and trying to fix them," says Shubhankar who will be focusing more on the European Tour this season.

"The best thing was my short game-chipping and putting became really good last year. I was really struggling with it, my chipping was my worst part in the game. But especially in last three months, my chipping became really good. I worked a lot with coach Jesse Grewal and last year my good friend Gurbaaz Mann, who is like a technical advisor to me, helped me with my clubs and caddied for me. He told me what I was doing wrong. It really helped me."

Dream event

The Indian was excited to play in British Open, where he has always dreamed to play. "British Open was my favourite major since kid. I feel it is the toughest major. This is where the game started. The course is next to ocean, it's very tough, windy. You need an all-round game. It is very skill based. I have watched so many great players there. I remember all of them, bordering high intensity. Tiger (Woods) winning after his dad passed away, Rory (Mcllroy), Jordan Speith. I will be playing in Scottish and Irish Open which I hope will prepare me. It's my first major, I don't want to get bogged down by pressure. I want to enjoy my game," he said.

Before that, Shubhankar, pursuing his Political Science degree, has another battle to win.

"I have to appear for my final year exams in May and I have to figure out how to do it! I love history. I can't afford to miss them. I did the hard work last year and cleared the second year. Actually I don't study at all, I take my books a month before the exams!," he laughed.

Now for someone who has been steadily decoding the golfing puzzles, that should not be problem!

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