Next door man living the dream

Defending champ Chawrasia says familiarity with top level stands Tricolour men in good stead at Indian Open

Published: 05th March 2017 06:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th March 2017 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: A Samuel Beckett proverb gained global headlines following Stan Wawrinka’s Australian Open triumph in 2014. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,” is a tattoo that the Swiss had on his left forearm and many people wrote about it after his first title win at that level. Closer home, there was a sportsman who carried with him a similar message – SSP Chawrasia. He did not have tattoos but he knew if he worked hard, he could get closer to his one dream from when he started swinging a golf club – win the Indian Open. That dream kept him awake at night and in 2011 he took the first step towards realising it. He finished in seventh place.

Knowing he belonged at this level, he decided to try again. The end result was finishing second in 2013. That proved to him that he was getting closer to ticking off one item on the bucket list. “I was happy because I finished in second place,” he recalls to Express. “I knew I was close enough and it was just going to be a matter of time.” In 2014, the tournament itself took a break and a year later Chawrasia finished in first place. The only problem was Anirban Lahiri had also finished in first place so it went to a playoff. Chawrasia lost and his wife, Simantini, cried. When the 38-year-old returned to the Delhi Golf Club in 2016, he only had eyes for the title. “I was hurt in 2015 because I did not win,” he says.

I decided then I had to win it in 2016. No other go.” He lived up to his promise to himself as he won the event in 2016. An Indian winning the Indian Open isn’t that big – six others have won the event since 2000 but for him, it was the world. “It gave me a two-year European Tour card exemption as well as a ranking jump which helped me play at the Olympics.” Given the World No 262, who was brought up at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the oldest such entity outside the British Isles, hasn’t enjoyed much success elsewhere (all his titles on the European Tour have come in India), it’s no surprise to hear him sounding confident about his prospects next week. He is also impressed about how the Indian Open, the richest event in the sport here, has grown in the last 10 years. “I have played in the tournament when the prize money was about $300,000.

It’s going to be $1.75 mn this time. It’s a sixfold jump.” It’s strange to include him in a growing band of men who are not afraid to go past the PGTI and challenge the best in Asia and beyond. When you ask the reason behind the rise, a thought provoking response follows. “Most of us (Anirban, Gaganjeet Bhullar and so on) have played abroad and we have watched how the best players prepare. You try to imbibe that in your work ethic. We have all realised that they are all just like us. So that fear factor is not there anymore.” If he hopes to walk his talk, the next challenge is to be more consistent. swaroop@newindianexpress.com

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