CHENNAI: The Diamond Country Club near Vienna was a beehive of activity on Thursday as it welcomed back the European Tour, one of golf’s elite circuits, after four months of inactivity. Shubhankar Sharma, one of the Indians who has a card to play on the Tour, was watching from his home in Chandigarh.
Even though the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar and SSP Chawrasia have said that they may completely miss the European Tour in 2020 because of the pandemic, Sharma is itching to get back to action. He concedes that it is a “risk to fly right now” but, in the same breath, opines that “this is going to be the norm till a vaccine comes out.” “It’s a risk but I am open to taking that risk,” Sharma says. “It might take a long time till the vaccine comes out so this is going to be the norm.
We just need to take precautions and be safe... just be aware of our health and expect the best.” Even though he is just 23, Sharma is mature enough to accept the decision of the organisers to restart the Tour without a majority of the players. “No, I am not disappointed that they have gone ahead without us,” he says. “The Tour has to function, so many players in Europe want to play. Just because the flights aren’t open (in India), doesn’t mean they won’t restart.
It’s very tough to come to a situation where you keep everybody’s interests in mind. No complaints.”
One reason the Arjuna Awardee has come to this conclusion is the Tour has already extended his card to the end of 2021. Even otherwise, Sharma is in a clearer frame of mind. The lockdown has given him a rare opportunity to fine tune his game for more than a month (he was one of the first athletes in the country to restart practice).
“Haven’t had this long a break for a very long time. I have pretty much worked on every aspect of my game. Happy that everything has started coming back (in terms of chipping, putting and driving).” One can argue that a few of those components had deserted him in the beginning of the year. Of the six tournaments he had played in 2020, he missed the cut in four. His confidence was so low that he even took part in a PGTI meet in February where he finished T-29, his best finish in 2020.
He is also thankful that things have gone swimmingly well at the Chandigarh Golf Club, where he has been training since May. “There are no caddies allowed, everyone gets their own cart and there is full sanitation. The flagpin has a contraption so that you don’t have to use the hand to take the ball out... there is no interaction so you are not touching anything or anyone apart from your own equipment.”