CHENNAI: Fourteen years is a long time in sports. Careers can start and finish in that period, a whole generation can be replaced by the new. It can feel longer if you are Rahil Gangjee!
It was 2004 when the Kolkata golfer won Volkswagen Masters China, an Asian Tour title, in his first year on the international circuit. He was 25 then. If that success was expected to pave the way for more, it didn't come. Indian golf and Rahil were in for a long wait. New winners emerged, Rahil greyed and finished second a few times here and there, but the title did not come. After years of wait, the golfing fraternity stopped expecting him to win.
Considering that, Sunday's triumph at the Panasonic Open in Japan's Ibaraki meant the world to the 39-year-old. Second overnight, he was tied first going into the final hole where a birdie handed him the title and a cheque for $283000 (`1.88 crore approx). It also got him a much-needed exemption on the Japan and Asian Tours for two years.
"Difficult to put in words what it means or how it feels," Gangjee told Express from Ibaraki. "I guess I will be in better condition tomorrow to describe what this win means and how it was achieved. I'm just too dazed at the moment. Maybe after going out with friends in the evening will I be able to collect my thoughts," he said.
"To be honest I didn't think of anything. I knew I was playing well and I had a chance. So I just wanted to play the ball in the right place. I wasn't thinking of much else. It's a relief and a moment of great joy for sure. It's difficult to explain what kept me going all these years," added the player who shifted base to Benagluru last year.
In the 13 years from 2005 before the one in Ibaraki, Rahil played 268 tournaments. He finished second in three and third in three others, but despite making the top 10 just 27 times, made hanging in there a habit instead of losing focus along with his way. That explains him retaining his card on the Asian Tour year after year, which made things easier in the absence of sponsors.
"Not winning for such a long time can dent confidence and I'm sure Rahil felt it over the years," felt Indian tour veteran Mukesh Kumar. "He's a good player who can drive the ball straight consistently, who might have developed a psychological problem because of so many near misses. It became a mind matter rather than any problem with his game. This win should help him get rid of that."
Monkey off his back, Rahil will hope that's how it happens for him hereon.
First international title 2004
Second international title 2018
World ranking 832
Best world ranking 317 (2006)