India’s Shubhankar Sharma reckons that the country could have a Major champion in the not too distant future and believes it could spur the game of golf in the subcontinent.
The 21-year-old himself will be taking part in a Major with his maiden win on the European Tour — the Johannesburg Open last December, earning him a spot at The 147th Open at Carnoustie this July.
Seven Indian golfers — Jeev Milkha Singh, Anirban Lahiri, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal, Shiv Kapur, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Gaurav Ghei — have competed in Majors with the best result being Lahiri’s tied for fifth at the PGA Championship in 2015.
They have made 44 Major appearances between them with Ghei being the first to make an appearance at a Major when he played in the British Open in 1997.
“I still think I still have some way to go but I don’t see a reason why me or any other player from India can’t do it,” Sharma said during a chat at the Majlis Course on Thursday.
“Obviously, playing Majors is something which is everyone’s dream. And I will be playing my first Major at The Open Championship this year. If you have more and more stars coming up, I don’t see a reason why we can’t have a Major champion in the next seven to 10 years. I think if someone wins a Major, it will be great for Indian golf.
“My win has certainly motivated a lot of kids back home. So, this has made a lot of difference but if we have a Major champion, it would do wonders for our country,” he added.
Sharma’s victory in Johannesburg not only gave him an entry into The Open but also a two-year exemption on the European Tour. And he seems to be settling well in his new surroundings.
“Obviously, it is my first season in Europe and it happened at the end of the year so, it totally changed my schedule for this year. Everything is pretty new now but I think I’m settling in pretty fine,” he said.
“I think there is a lot for me to learn this year. Lot of new experiences, playing in Europe, playing different conditions, playing links golf and just playing on the Tour, playing with better players. So, I feel like my game is there and I’m playing pretty good. I think it is just about being on Tour more and more and playing different courses and once I get totally used to it, I still feel a bit new here but once I get totally used to it, it will be a great year for me,” added Sharma.
Talking about his chances at his first Major, he said: “Realistically, it will be a good experience. Since I’ve never played links golf before the good thing is that I will be playing the Scottish and the Irish Open before that. That will be a good match practice for The Open Championship. But again, I like to just stick to my routine and do my best. I think anything is possible in golf but I’d be really if I get off to a good start.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It is over four days and any time the momentum can change. You just have to stay in it and try and get off to a good start and that’s what I will try and do. But, above all, I just want to have fun. I have my birthday during that week as well so, it will be a very special birthday for me and I will try and do my best.”
The best finish by an Indian at The Open was by Randhawa, who finished tied for 27th in 2004.