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Playing in Europe challenging: SSP

- Indian golf has to come out of frog-in-the-well attitude: Lahiri

Calcutta: Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chowrasia and Rahil Gangjee were at their articulate best during an interactive session with the newspersons, here, on Tuesday, the eve of the inaugural McLeod Russel Tour Championship. The Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI)’s year-ending championship will be held at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.

The following are excerpts

On the season-ending PGTI meet

SSP Chowrasia: Oh it’s a big tournament. I skipped one in Thailand to be part of this year-ending tournament. I had committed to the organisers months back. I owe a lot to PGTI. A tournament like this should be there every year. Indian golf needs meets where you have big prize money.

Rahil Gangjee: For me, it’s a big bonus. I was in the United States playing the Nationwide Tour. Now, I would like to do something special to take home the winner’s purse. As Anirban said, the next four days will be exciting.

Anirban Lahiri: A great boost to Indian golf. Tournament like this gives you the impetus to perform better. A tournament where the prize money is Rs 1.25 crore is a good thing. I am looking forward to the next four days of exciting golf. Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the place where I honed my skill. It gave me the platform…

On the RCGC course…

Chowrasia: It’s a homecoming of sorts for me. It’s a different RCGC is what I would say. The greens are of international standards… I am excited. Hopefully, I will do something special in the next four days.

Gangjee: Well, this is course where I learnt the basics. I know this course like the back of my hand. But there have been some changes. So I think it evens out.

Lahiri: A great course. The rough is up, the greens are quicker and the fairways are narrower. RCGC is the first non-Army course where I played. That was some 12-13 years back. I have very fond memories of this course. I would like to make a memorable return to my favourite golf course by winning the tournament.

The challenges of playing abroad…

Chowrasia: My main problem was food. I had to change my food habit. That was a real challenge for me. I must say that. Talking about change in style… Yes you have to take care of the ball flight… Since Europe is cold and the air is heavy, you cannot hit like you do say in Calcutta, New Delhi or Bangalore. I also have to work on my putting. Then this age-syndrome of homesickness. After one month on the Tour, playing non-stop golf, I crave for homemade food. I tell you it’s very depressing to live a life out of a suitcase.

Gangjee: My situation was somewhat different from what Anirban and SSP faced. My life was not as miserable as what they had. Because in the US (Gangjee was playing the Nationawide Tour), you can hit the ball higher. The long-iron shots do not roll and that’s a big advantage.

Lahiri: In Europe, you can’t hit higher. You have to invent shots. Before I went to British Open (he finished tied-31st and had a memorable hole-in-one), I asked senior pros like Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Mikha Singh about how to go about it. They told me to keep it simple. Since I came through the qualifiers there was no pressure. It was a different ballgame altogether. Landscaping is different… the natural hazards. If you want to be successful on the European Tour you have to adapt fast.

On the golf scene in India…

Chowrasia: The corporate backing is the main reason I think. Corporate funding is very important for a game like golf.

Gangjee: I agree with Anirban… The scenario is changing. More and more youngsters are taking up golf. It's not an easy game you see. What's happening in Korea is something revolutionary. So doing something like them won't happen overnight. But I think say when started in 1997 the Indian golf scene was not good. Now we are doing quite well. I feel the youngsters should play more in Europe and America.

Lahiri: The scene is much better now. The youngsters are coming up well. But they need foreign exposure. Unless and until you play abroad your game will not improve. Here when you play club golf and hit one-under, they make a hero out of you. In US there will be 25 young players, who hit five-under regularly. There is no fuss about it. We have to shed our frog-in-the-well attitude.