A new icon?

Sunday, August 22, 2010, will be embossed in golden letters in India’s golf history. Arjun Atwal became the first Indian to win a US PGA Tour event by clinching the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. Atwal’s victory has more significance to it than just achieving a glittering personal milestone; his feat also might just have provided Indian golf with a hitherto missing icon-figure. A torch bearer is essential for any sport to grow through generations, strike a chord with public and, most importantly, inspire youngsters to take up the discipline, just like cricket has managed to do over the years. In the 80s, Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev ignited a bright flame that was carried forward with aplomb by Sachin Tendulkar from 90s to till date.

However, golf, despite considerable interest and following in the country, struggled to unearth a mass hero, a person whose achievements could proclaim loudly that the sport is not a careworn pastime of a minority that wears pleated dress and follows toffee-nosed etiquettes. Even Shiv Kapur’s gold-winning effort in 2002 Busan Asian Games faded quickly with time, but the scenario might just change with Atwal’s triumph.
He does not fit into the typical stuck-up image of an upper-class golf player, as the US-educated Atwal still retains the virtues of a country-boy from Asansol, West Bengal. His victory, which came after a lot of emotional turmoil, battles against injuries and after losing his USPGA card, is a reminder that hard work and determination will eventually fetch the desired results. After the win, Atwal is ranked 182 in the world, a steep climb from 450 and it’s a timely push for him to strive for bigger achievements.

Atwal’s success in the world’s richest and toughest tour should work as a motivational factor for other Indian golfers like Jyoti Randhawa, Anirban Lahiri, and Jeev Milkha Singh. It’s not that the aforementioned players do not have the necessary talent, but perhaps, they needed an example to follow and stand up to the best in the world. Now, Atwal, a bosom pal and training partner of world number one Tiger Woods, has provided them with that much-awaited attestation in shining letters. Atwal’s victory was an Indian first in the Promised Land of golf, and hopefully, others will follow suit, marking India’s growth as a major golfing destination.

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