By V Krishnaswamy
Over the years Indian golf has had some great moments. Some of them are recounted here.
INCEPTION OF INDIAN OPEN – 1964
Seven years after the formation of the IGU, came the next big year for Indian golf when the Indian Open, was launched. The first Indian Open was played at the Delhi Golf Club and the legendary Australian golfer, Peter Thomson, five-time winner of the British Open, became the first winner of this prestigious event. This marked the beginning of the first true international golf tournament in India. On the final day, Thomson shot a five-under 67 with five birdies and an eagle, a round that is still etched in the memory of fans at the Delhi Golf Club.
Thomson, who won the Indian Open thrice (1966 and 1976), was a superstar in world golf at that time and was instrumental in the birth of the Indian Open.
PG BILOO SETHI WINS INDIAN OPEN – 1965
In 1965, the second year of the event, PG (Billoo) Sethi made every Indian golf fan proud when he beat a strong foreign challenge, including Thomson, to win the title as an amateur. On a par-73 Royal Calcutta Golf Course, Sethi shot five-under 68s on the opening two days to win by a huge margin of seven strokes.
INDIA INVITED TO WORLD CUP – 1969
In 1969, India received its first major recognition when it was invited to participate in the World Cup Qualifying event at Singapore. Ruda Valji, a revered figure from Willingdon Sports Club, Mumbai and Shadi Lal of Delhi Golf Club, formed the Indian contingent.
INDIAN OPEN BECOMES PART OF ASIAN CIRCUIT- 1970
In 1970, the Indian Open received a major boost when it joined the Asian Golf Circuit and the field became stronger and stronger thereafter. In 1971 at Delhi, Australian Graham Marsh and David Graham, winner of two majors in the US PGA Tour, were involved in a thrilling duel with Marsh, who scored successive 66 in the first two rounds, winning by one stroke on the final day.
INDIA WINS NOMURA CUP TO BECOME ASIA-PACIFIC CHAMPIONS - 1973
India's first major victory in a team championship came in 1973 when Raj Kumar Pitamber, PG Sethi, Vikramjit Singh and Lakshman Singh combined to win the Nomura Cup at Jakarta, Indonesia to be crowned Asia-Pacific Golf champions.
INDIA WIN INAUGURAL ASIAN GAMES GOLD – 1982
After the success of Nomura Cup, it took another five years before one of the most glorious chapters of Indian golf history was written. In November 1982, India shocked a quality field including countries like Japan and Korea, to win the gold medal at IX Asian Games in Delhi. 'Bunny' Lakshman Singh, Rajeev Mohta, Rishi Narain and Amit Luthra represented the Indian team, while Achal Nath was the reserve player. Not only did India bag the team medal, but almost made a clean sweep of the individual medals with Lakshman Singh winning the gold and Mohta taking the silver. Rishi Narain lost the bronze to Japanese player Sakata by one stroke when he bogeyed the final hole, while Sakata managed to drain a nerve-jangling 10-footer par putt.
In team event, with three best scores out of four counting, the Indians combined well to chalk a 16-stroke victory over Korea and Japan, who took the silver and bronze respectively.
JEEV BECOMES FIRST INDIAN ABROAD – 1994
Jeev won the Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea to become the first Indian to taste major success outside of India. He went on to 1995 Philippine Classic, 1995 Asian Matchplay Championship, Philippines, 1996 Philip Morris Asia Cup, Korea and 1999 Lexus International, Thailand. In 2006 he won Volvo China Open, Volvo Masters of Europe, Casio World Open, Japan and Golf Nippon Series JT Cup. He also became Asia No. 1 in 2006. Jeev in his career had also been the first Indian to qualify for European Tour and Japan Tour.
GAURAV GHEI FIRST INDIAN TO PLAY BRITISH OPEN - 1997
Gaurav Ghei became the first Indian Open to qualify for the British Open in 1997. But he missed the cut. Since then Jyoti Randhawa (3 times), Arjun Atwal, Shiv Kapur and Jeev have also played at the British Open.
SHIV KAPUR BAGS ASIAN GAMES GOLD MEDAL – 2002
Twenty years after India won the inaugural Asian Games gold medal, Shiv Kapur became only the second Indian to win the gold medal, when he triumphed at the Asian Games in Busan, Korea in 2002.
JYOTI RANDHAWA BECOMES ASIA NO. 1 – 2002
Jyoti Randhawa became the first Indian to win Asian Tour Order of Merit, when he topped the Tour in 2002. He also became the first Indian to win the Volvo Masters of Asia in 2004.
ARJUN ATWAL BECOMES ASIA NO. 1 – 2003
A year after Randhawa, Arjun Atwal became Asia No.1. He also became the first Indian to win a European Tour title when he grabbed the joint-sanctioned Malaysian Open.
ATWAL QUALIFIES FOR US TOUR – 2004
Arjun Atwal added another glittering chapter when he became the first Indian to qualify for the US Tour, where he plays regularly since then.
SHIV KAPUR WINS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR TITLE ON ASIAN TOUR - 2005
Shiv Kapur emerged as the brightest Indian star when he won the Volvo Masters of Asia in 2005 and emerged as the top Rookie on the Asian Tour in 2005. In 2006 he continued his march and ensured a card for European Tour in 2007, where he plays regularly.
JEEV BECOMES ASIA NO. 1 - 2006
In the decade since he became one of Asian Tour’s early poster boys and played around the world, Jeev finally became Asia No. 1 by topping the Order of Merit. His four wins in the season also saw him crack top-50 in the world. One of his wins was the prestigious Volvo Masters of Europe, the season-ending championships of Europe.
JEEV BECOMES FIRST INDIAN TO PLAY AT AUGUSTA MASTERS - 2007
Jeev, who in 2002 became the first Indian to play the US Open became the first Indian to play the Masters at Augusta in 2007. He led briefly after the first nine holes and then made the cut and finished 37th in his debut attempt.