CHENNAI: His name isn’t heard as often as Anirban Lahiri or Jeev Milkha Singh, but in his quiet and unmistakable way, SSP Chawrasia has established himself among India’s most prominent golfers ever. Unassuming and not the most eloquent, the 38-year-old has made it a habit of nailing a big one after flying low.
Chawrasia’s second straight triumph at the country’s biggest golf tournament — Indian Open — last week is the latest chapter in a story that started under trying circumstances at Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
He talks about that and what keeps him going in a chat with Express.
A fair amount of success after battling a lot of odds. It’s been an eventful journey from modest beginnings...
I sometimes don’t believe what has happened in my life is true. After starting from where I did, it was obviously not possible to think I’d come this far. It was a journey into the unknown. I went ahead with the sole objective of playing golf as a professional.
There was no certainty what kind of career I’d have. Since I didn’t know anything else, I’ve no idea what I’d have done had this not clicked. I’ve achieved a lot more than I had thought and that’s a fantastic feeling.
How did you realise you could do this for a living?
It was in 1999, a turning point of sorts, when I finished runner-up at the Indian Open (behind Arjun Atwal). I won around `9 lakh, and it gave me the assurance that I could play a number of events without having to bother about travel and hotel expenses. Other than the confidence I got as a player, the knowledge that I don’t have to lose sleep over funds for a few days was a major boost.
What are the factors to have contributed to your success?
A number of them. Despite meagre resources, my family supported me in the initial years. Parents, brothers and wife have all been very important in different stages. My coaches helped on other aspects. Hard work played a vital part. Perhaps I did a few things right and kept improving with time.
Talk of Indian golf usually centres around Anirban Lahiri these days. Before him, it was Jeev Milkha Singh and others. You feel left out at times?
Don’t think I received less attention. My achievements have got what they deserve and that’s how it should be. If I’m good enough and willing to work hard without thinking of consequences, results will come. If I get the results, fame, adulation and everything else will follow. I’m happy with the kind of attention my performances has received.
Was winning Indian Open a second time tougher than the first?
After finishing second four times, nailing it finally was big. So last year’s achievement was special. But looking back, I’d say this one was tougher because of the expectations. Coming in as defending champion means added pressure. That was a big difference from last year. It makes this one more satisfying as an achievement.
What is it between you and Indian Open?
Can’t say what, but there seems to be something. I’ve done well in different venues and before winning last year and now, I was runner-up on four occasions. Can’t recall any tournament where I’ve performed so consistently. Maybe the competition, maybe the urge to do well in the country’s biggest event, there’s something that brings the best out of me.
Being a regular on the European Tour (he can play until 2019), your experience on European soil is mostly about missed cuts. Does this bother?
It’s something that bugs me. I’ve struggled in Europe. I’m trying to figure out what’s going wrong. Weather, course, competition are constraints but no excuse.
I’m working on it and given that I want to play in Europe for a long time, I hope the results will follow. It’s one record I want to set straight. The ultimate dream, of course, is to play on the USPGA Tour and in Majors.
Indians are making a mark in international golf. What catalysed this?
Getting used to conditions abroad is a reason. More Indians are playing the Asian Tour. You have Indians in Europe and the US. With familiarity comes performance and with it confidence.
We’ve won tournaments. An important factor is sponsorship. You need around `40 lakh to play the full season in Asia and roughly the double in Europe. Although only about 10-15% of Indian pros have sponsorship, those who have benefited from it.