Life away from golf, Rahil Gangjee banks on fitness and Tiger to stay motivated
Rahil Gangjee’s playing area has shrunk from a 7300-yard golf course to a makeshift 20-foot chip-putt facility in a corner of his drawing room. Among Indian golfers active on international tours, Gangjee has been hit the hardest. The Japan Golf Tour Organization (JGTO), where the 41-year-old is the only one from this land with full playing rights, stopped operations after just one event into the 2020 season. One of the first nations to deal with the pandemic after the virus spread from the shores of China, Japan suspended its tour in mid-January, much before any other global tour and isn’t looking to restart before the end of August.
The only consolation for Gangjee, who won the flagship Panasonic Open Championship on that tour in 2018, is the assurance from JGTO chairman Isao Aoki that whenever tournaments resume, it will not be without foreign players, who form a significant chunk of a tour that ranks third in terms of prize money after the PGA and European Tours. Out of a total purse of $28 million, events worth $9.5 million have been cancelled, which translates into nine events of the 24 scheduled this season. Apart from staying in touch with his manager Atsuhiko Matsumuro for updates on “constantly changing information”, Gangjee can do little but wait for the restart.
A regular on the Asian Tour since his breakthrough win in 2004, Gangjee decided to break the mould and focus on Japan after the win in 2018 that broke a prolonged winless streak. “After playing in courses with similar playing conditions for so long, the idea was to get out of the Asian Tour,” said Gangjee. Walking off the beaten track by playing two seasons on the Web.com (now Korn Ferry Tour) earlier to make the PGA Tour without success, Gangjee is not new to taking risks. The American dream cost him his savings and by the end of it he had hit rock bottom. The road here was fraught with fewer perils but not an easy one, nonetheless.
The experience has been rewarding as after two seasons in Japan, Gangjee can vouch that “good golf gets compensated and is a really good tour to make a living” with most events carrying a prize purse between $1-2 million. While soaking in the appreciation of trying to blend with the culture and playing in conditions that are pure which makes it tough to negotiate the greens and pin positions, Gangjee has emerged a better player or “tactician” as he likes to term it. But for the disruption, the learning curve could have been steeper, and couple it with a truncated schedule that could get further shortened due to an ever-changing situation, Gangjee is not at ease.
There are concerns on several fronts and primary is about “losing the feel”. Away from competition from three months since the Bengal Open on the Professional Golf Tour of India, for which he signed up after the Asian Tour’s Thailand Open got postponed, Gangjee says the short game has taken a hit as it is feel oriented. As a result, motivation isn’t high as no amount of practice can replace real-time action. To keep the spirit up, Gangjee works out regularly and watches videos of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. “Watching documentaries from various sport inspires you to work harder.”
Gangjee is living a dream alright, but in the absence of a major sponsor, managing costs when the season is in full swing is not easy as expenses during a tournament week can range between $2500-3000. Amid the anxiety over when players can compete again, Gangjee is also aware that as economies open up sponsors would be taking stock of losses and their keenness to commit money for staging tournaments will be tested.
Going with the adage ‘control the controllable’, Gangjee is doing what he can to be ready when live action resumes in August. Carrying on the transition from an out-and-out aggressive player to a tactician will obviously be uppermost on the mind; he is also looking forward to placing his smartphone camera over Japanese text more often. The Google translator deciphers the content in a flash and is Gangjee’s way of blending with a country that is now his second home.
By Robin Bose
Picture Courtesy: Asian Tour
Formed in 2006, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the recognised official body of professional golf in India. PGTI's objective is to promote professional golf in the country, as well as to give players an opportunity to be involved in the decision making on all aspects of the game. Headed by Mr. Gautam Thapar (President), PGTI's governing body comprises leading Indian golf professionals. PGTI currently has over 300 members.
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