CHENNAI: When Shubhankar Sharma walked up to President Ram Nath Kovind to receive the Arjuna Award on Tuesday, it completed a remarkable year for the 22-year-old who had just finished his first full season on the European and the PGA Tour.
In the last week of September 2017, he was ranked 458 in the world. Outside the fraternity, it was still a case of ‘Shubhankar who?’ That changed in a barely believable four-month period between October 2017 and February 2018 when he kept winning. Two wins on the PGTI (TAKE Open Golf Championship and the McLeod Russel Tour Championship) and two wins on the European Tour (Maybank Malaysia Open and Joburg Open) had heralded the rise of a new emperor. World No 458 in September became No 64 (he is now No 108) in less than 120 days.
It culminated in a surreal manner at the Mexico leg of the World Golf Championships in March when the Indian led by two strokes after three rounds. Just when the rookie had the world’s attention, he stumbled with a three-over 74 to finish T9. But he had already been noticed. “Last 12 months have been like a dream,” he tells Express.
“Had someone given me a checklist and told me to tick my choices or desires for 2018, I wouldn’t have picked up so many things at one go. That really sums it up for me.”
After his showing in Mexico, an invite to the Masters quickly followed. He also featured in the other three Majors, thus becoming one of the very few Indians to have appeared in all four in the calendar year. “Playing in all four Majors in my rookie year outside of Asia has been a tremendous experience. It has given me a completely different insight into golf, from within.
I am happy that it has happened early on.”
The experiences — he claims — will enable him to tackle those beastly European and US courses much better (he missed the cut at three of the four Majors). Playing on the PGA Tour — he still does not have a card but says he will get opportunities to play there anyway — has improved his game. “As a player, I have grown by a fair distance,” he says. “The experience of playing on the biggest stage has given me a different perspective. I am a more equipped player now.”
If 2018 was all about making a name for himself, 2019 will all be about one thing. Trying to get a PGA Tour card. “I will get a few events there even though I don’t have a card. I chose that way for this year. There are many considerations for that. I will go for a full card this year, though.”
He also believes what happened in Mexico will be the norm, not the outlier, going forward. “It was a manifestation of my game and my belief system. It’s going to happen many more times in the future with different results. I have to keep doing what I am doing.”
Up next for the Delhi boy is to maintain his lead on the Asian Tour Money Leader list. To this effect, he will turn out at the Taiwan Masters beginning on Thursday.
For now though, he is smiling a million dollar smile. “Thank you, India,” he says. “With the hashtag at the beginning. The Arjuna means a lot to me.”