BENGALURU: In a country waking up slowly to other sports after decades of worshipping cricket, golf continues to be a marginalised sport. Golfers usually don’t make headlines. But in their quiet way, they have been making statements of late. Viraj Madappa joined the list on Sunday, by becoming the latest Indian to win an Asian Tour title, at the TAKE Solutions Masters.
The 20-year-old from Kolkata carded a last round of four-under 67 at the KGA for a tally of 16-under 268 and won by two strokes. After turning pro last year, he shifted to Bengaluru to train with coach Tarun Sardesai. The move has borne fruit. Other than winning $63,000 (Rs 43.5 lakh approx), Madappa has become the youngest Indian to win on the Asian Tour. Gaganjeet Bhullar had won the Indonesia Invitational in 2009 when he was 21.
Despite being relatively new to the pro circuit, Madappa showed great character in the last round. He was tied fourth overnight. Scott Vincent looked good to seal the title by taking a two-shot lead around the midway stage on Sunday. If Scott crumbled under pressure in the last six holes with just one birdie and three bogeys to show, Madappa held his nerve. Two birdies on a bogey-free last four holes gave him the title.
“Thoughts of winning crossed my mind when I birdied the 16th hole. I was trying to stay in the present and hit every shot the right way. I didn’t back off from the situation, even though I had the opportunity to lay up on the 18th hole. I decided to go for the green and I’m proud that I made that decision,” said Madappa.
Madappa is the fourth Indian to win this year. “I think the future is looking bright for India in golf,” he said. There were five more Indians in the top 10.
Veteran Jyoti Randhawa, who finished tied 16th, is happy to see the progress made by Indian pros. “I always thought there was a lot of talent in the country. Now, with Arjun Atwal, myself and Jeev Milkha going out, other guys are coming in. Fifteen years ago, not many guys went out to play. Now, there are always around 20. That gives them the confidence to face the best.”
Final standings: 268: Viraj Madappa (Ind, 70-65-66-67). 270: Danthai Boonma (Tha, 66-61-73-70), Scott Vincent (Can, 66-71-65-68), Suradit Yongcharoenchai (Tha, 66-69-69-66), Miguel Carballo (Arg, 66-66-67-71). 272: Khalin Joshi (Ind, 67-69-64-72), Honey Baisoya (Ind, 70-66-66-70), SSP Chawrasia (Ind, 69-65-68-70).
Indian wins in 2018
Shubhankar Sharma: Maybank Championship (co-sanctioned by European & Asian Tours).
Rahil Gangjee: Panasonic Open (co-sanctioned by Asian & Japan Tours), LP Cup (Asian Development Tour).
Gaganjeet Bhullar: Fiji International (co-sanctioned by European & Asian Tours).
Viraj Madappa: TAKE Solutions Masters (Asian Tour).