Golfer Shubhankar Sharma believes India have ‘very good chance of clinching gold’ at Asian Games
The Chandigarh-based professional was recently in the news for registering a top-10 finish at the British Open last month.
With a strong contingent representing India, Shubhankar Sharma is confident that the country has a “very good chance of winning a gold” medal in golf at the upcoming Asian Games 2023, which are scheduled from September 28 to October 1 at the West Lake International Golf Course in Hangzhou, China.
The Chandigarh-based professional was recently in the news for becoming only the third Indian after Jeev Milkha Singh (2008 PGA Championship) and Anirban Lahiri (2015 PGA Championship) to register a top-10 finish in a Major at the British Open last month.
The last time India won gold in the team competition was way back in 1982 in New Delhi, when golf was added to the multi-discipline event for the first time.
With the likes of Olympians Lahiri and SSP Chawrasia, besides Asian Tour champion Khalin Joshi on their side, India look strong contenders for the title. Lahiri represented India twice at the Olympics – Rio 2016 with Chawrasia and the 2020 Tokyo Games with Udayan Mane.
The Dubai-based golfer has the distinction of recording the best-ever finish in a Major – tied fifth at the 2015 PGA Championship. He also came close to winning a PGA Tour title at The Players Championship last year before switching his allegiance to the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Series.
Chawrasia, on the other hand, is a four-time European Tour winner including back-to-back Indian Open victories in 2016 and 2017 at two different courses – Delhi Golf Club and DLF Golf & Country Club, respectively. Joshi won the Panasonic Open India in New Delhi in 2018 on the Asian Tour.
“I think we have a very good chance not only for a medal but for a gold medal – that would be our goal. We have a very good team in Anirban, SSP and Khalin. In terms of golf, we are growing day-by-day and we have a very strong presence in Asia on the Asian Tour. I definitely feel if all of us bring out our best performances, then it will be more than enough to get a gold medal. We will do our best,” Sharma told Khel Now in an exclusive interview.
“I have not played at the West Lake course. It will be a new venue for all of us, but I have played a couple of times in China.”
Traditionally, India has posted memorable performances in golf at the Asian Games, clinching three gold and as many silver medals. The sport was included in the 1982 edition for the first time, with hosts India capturing gold in both the individual and team categories. India had a 1-2 finish in the individual competition, with Lakshman Singh clinching gold and Rajiv Mohta taking silver at the Delhi Golf Club. Further, the quartet of Lakshman Singh, Rajiv Mohta, Rishi Narain and Amit Luthra won the team gold.
Lakshman Singh became the first individual Asian Games gold medalist in golf, and Delhi golfer Shiv Kapur repeated that feat at the 2002 Busan Asian Games. At the 2006 Doha Asiad, the quartet of Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Joseph Chakola and Chiragh Kumar took silver. In 2010 Guangzhou, the Indian team comprising Rahul Bajaj, Abhijeet Singh Chaddha, Rashid Khan and Abhinav Lohan finished runners-up. The country has suffered a medal drought since then.
Asked about his thoughts on representing the country at the 2024 Paris Olympics, Sharma said: “First of all, it will be a big honour for me to represent my country at the Olympic Games. Many things need to be done to reach Paris 2024. And I still need to qualify. But, it will be an incredible honour for me to bring a medal for the country.”
The PGA Tour and DP World Tour have joined hands in principle with the Public Investment Fund-backed franchise led by legendary Greg Norman in a landmark agreement to float a common entity and take the sport further. However, Sharma still feels his focus is to play on the top Tours and improve his world rankings.
“I don’t know what would be my stand because the merger has not happened till now. They have just started talking. Will the European Tour benefit from it? What happens to the world golfing scene? There are many things to be looked at before anything can be decided. Right now, I am not thinking about that. I want to play good tournaments and give my best. As long as I get a place to compete and get my world rankings up, I am a happy man,” Sharma signed off.