Chandigarh, Jan 13: It isn't everyday that you come across an Indian golfer who is a world-beater. For that is what Jeev Milkha Singh is - the first golfer from India to become a member of the European Circuit.
This son of Milkha Singh, the ace athlete of the 1960s, is the highest-ranked Indian golfer in the world. Having recently broken into the top100, 34-year-old Jeev has finally arrived on the global golfing scene.
It all started in April 2006 at the China Open in Beijing. Jeev defeated Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez. He became the first Asian to win in Europe and collected the winners cheque of 666,660 Euros, said to be the largest amount earned by an Indian in any individual sport.
Currently ranked 37 in the world, Jeev has won four titles on three different Tours.
"After I won that (China Open), with that confidence I played every tournament differently because I thought to achieve what I wanted, so lets go out there and see what I can do. And after that, I had more events worldwide. I was more relaxed and everything went right for me after being patience and I think that made a lot of difference with my events this year and that patience has obviously got me the confidence to go there and get the job done," says Jeev.
This chase for excellence in 2006 has resulted in the Punjab Golf Association conferring the first ever 'Punjab Golf Rattan' Award on Jeev. His proud parents-Milkha Singh and Nirmal Milkha Singh-were present at the ceremony, justifiably making it a memorable day for the Singhs.
Jeev is motivated to repeat his success of 2006, but he is human after all. He is concerned for his fellow golfers, who he says are not playing as well as they should, as there is no government support for the sport.
"The government needs to be involved in a big way. Firstly, they need to have public courses. There is only one public course in India and that's at Lado Sarai (in New Delhi). If you have good start and, if you have a public course in every state. After that, corporate houses need to come out and sponsor and help the needy guys who have the talent in the interiors. Then obviously the NGOs and the government need to join in to promote the game so that these young players who want to travel and play in the country and the top ones go abroad and after that we guys are hopefully doing well abroad, the media covers it well. We get the corporate houses as well and we have a good Indian Tour," says Jeev.
With the best practice facilities, the Chandigarh Golf Course has groomed many a player into golf legends. What is needed though is an exposure to budding golfers, who look for sponsors to go out and play a lot more tournaments on bigger circuits. There are many like Jeev who are waiting to hit that hole in one.