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Indians to the fore

New Delhi: Fairways and roughs never held as much promise for the Indians as in the year that went by with ace golfers Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh lending their names to epoch-making performances.

If Randhawa became the first Indian winner of the Order of Merit title in the eight-year history of the Asian PGA Tour, Atwal won the Singapore Masters in his first year as a regular on the European PGA Tour — by no way any mean achievement.

The presence of Indian golfers continued to be felt in international arena with Jeev, who did not particularly have a great season, becoming the first Indian to qualify for the US Open and also earning a right to play on the prestigious US PGA’s Nationwide Tour.

He did miss the chance to earn a PGA Tour card, but the fact that he managed to survive all the four days of the gruelling Q-School by making the cut was creditable enough.

If the pros had their days, the amateurs too were not to be left behind and the icing on the cake came from Shiv Kapoor who fetched the country a gold from the Busan Asian Games.

As the international corridors remained abuzz with the achievements of the Indians who till a couple of years back seemed to be content with their also-ran status, the domestic circuit too had its share of flutters.

Mr Consistent Mukesh Kumar won eight titles in his 11 appearances on the Hero Honda Tour, while finishing runner-up thrice, ensuring he left an indelible mark on Indian PGA history.

The affable Mukesh deservedly won the Champion Golfer of the Year award, and with one event remaining in the 2001-2002 season, the Mhow golfer has already accumulated Rs 17.1 lakh.

Others to make a mark on the domestic scenario included Digvijay Singh and Ashok Kumar. Digvijay finished third at the Indian Open (Asian PGA event) besides winning the Royal Springs Open in Kashmir.

Ashok Kumar had a number of top ten finishes but finally managed a title triumph in Noida Open and looked all set to qualify for the Asian PGA in 2003. Harmeet Kahlon showed brilliance in patches winning the Hero Honda Masters, while Arjun Singh performed a shade better — finishing tied second in the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia, an Asian PGA Tour event and carding a nine-stroke victory in the Honda-Siel PGA championship.

However, what hogged the limelight more that anything else was the performance of the trinity of golfers — Jeev, Randhawa and Atwal.

Among the three, Randhawa’s achievement would rate slightly higher on account of the fact that he started from scratch after suffering a career-threatening collar-bone injury in an accident early this year.

The two-time Hero Honda Masters champion and four-time Asian PGA tour winner, shrugged off a four-month injury layoff to script one of the most amazing comebacks in Indian sporting history.

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