Anirban Lahiri at the Royal Lytham & St Annes golf club during the final round of the British Open Golf Championship
Who said dreaming big doesn’t pay? Of course it requires a great deal of hard work and sacrifice to get to that point of success but today, thanks to Anirban Lahiri, we can tell a story.
A story of one young Indian talent who has blossomed and is clearly living up to the potential he showed as an amateur, reiterated with nine professional titles in the last four years.
Putting this in perspective, all these nine victories happened in India including his two Asian tour victories at the Delhi Golf Club. His choosing to go and play the international qualifier, like the one he played at Amata Spring Country Club (next to Pattaya), was something spectacular because he shot like 9-under to win the two-day event and reserve one of the four slots up for grabs. More importantly, the pressure is hard to explain as there are only 36 holes separating the top 70 players with the big prize looming in front of you — a chance to be in one of the majors.
Till a few years ago, to qualify, you had to be in the UK and qualify through one of the regionals held all over the British Isles. So while people may say it’s become easier now with an Asian, African, Australian and American qualifier, it’s not fair to take away the credit from what is an amazing achievement. Also, he has joined the rolls of other Indian golf greats like Jyoti Singh Randhawa, Gaurav Ghei, Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh, and can say he’s flown the Indian flag at a major.
Moving to his physical attributes, he’s got a perfect build; he’s 6”1’, and he’s working very hard —both on his fitness and his mind. His coach Vijay Divecha has had a good influence not only on his game but on his mind too.
The important thing is that he qualified in the first two days of March and then had to wait three-and-a-half months before teeing off at Royal Lytham & St Annes. I could think of many reasons for a burnout — just the situation getting to him — but he let his clubs do the talking.
For all of us who watched the live coverage, just the opening hole proved it was no simple lung opener but instead a very craftily designed par 3. As a matter of fact, we kept hearing how unforgiving the golf course was but clearly Anirban stayed out of the gorse and trouble and ensured he stayed in touching distance of the front page of the leader board. The icing for him would have been the hole-in-one in Round Three.
But for this writer, in particular, it was because he was finally being given sufficient TV time. Because for some strange reason, the Asians (in particular Indians) usually get blacked out when there is live golf coverage! Hope performances like these will help make a change.
Much has been written about Anirban being the top Asian in 31st place but the bigger result for us here in India is he did better than much higher-ranked players like Thongchai Jaidee, Prayad Marksaeng and Mardan Mamat apart from poor Jeev, who must have been still recovering from his scintillating Scottish Open victory and trying to put himself in the right frame barely three days later. Jeev has been the torch-bearer for many years now and I know he would have been excited for Anirban as he has shown the way for the young players including SSP Chowrasia.
I’m sure Anirban too will look at this as a stepping-stone and hope he will not be glorified to the extent that it affects his future. After all, it’s a very lonely climb to the top and now top has become a reality. And while Jeev is in the top 100 of the world’s ranking, I hope guys like Anirban join him there soon.
Finally, with my favourite Dada retired and Leander getting very close to the same stage in his career, if you’re looking for the Bong connection, you need not look past Anirban Lahiri! He’s honed his skills at the Eagleton golf course in Bangalore under the watchful eye of Vijay Divecha but can’t change his genes. So now it’s Bengal: 1, India: 0! Eat your heart out!
Name: Anirban Lahiri
Birthday: June 29, 1987
CALCUTTA CONNECT: He is a Bengalii
HOME COURSE: Eagleton Golf Resort, Bangalore
TURNED PRO: 2007
PROFESSIONAL WINS: Nine
PERSONAL: Introduced to the game by his father, an army officer, at the age of eight. Enjoys listening to music and gaming on his computer, phone or PS2
(Source: Asian Tour official website)
Brandon de Souza is a former national golf coach and head of Tiger Sports