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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

City golfer Akshay Sharma claims second PGTI title: ‘I still remember my caddie days’

When I turned professional in 2010, I would travel by buses or trains apart from hiring local caddies to save money and wins like today's make me remember all those days.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh | November 8, 2020 12:01:23 pm
Golfer Akshay Sharma after winning PGTI Players Championship at Panchkula Golf Club on Saturday.(Express)

Thirty-year-old Akshay Sharma still remembers the day when he accompanied his friend Shehzada Khan from his Kishangarh residence to the Chandigarh Golf Club to enroll as a caddie in 2004. Sharma, whose father Deen Dayal Sharma earned Rs 8,000 per month at that time, undertook a two-day course for caddies and started caddying for the members of the club the same week. On Saturday, the Chandigarh golfer claimed his second PGTI title with a tour-record matching lowest total of 24-under-264 in the PGTI Players Championship presented by Panchkula Golf Club. Sharma pocketed a prize money of Rs 4,84,590 making his career prize money in excess of Rs 74 lakh and marking another success story for a caddie from Chandigarh.

“I still remember the day when my friend Shehzada Khan, who used to caddie at the Chandigarh Golf Club, and I would undergo the two-day course at the course. The aim was to earn money as I was fascinated about sports and my family’s financial condition did not allow me to support my dreams. I used to earn Rs 25-50 for 18 holes for members and later would also coach some members or kids to support myself. When I turned professional in 2010, I would travel by buses or trains apart from hiring local caddies to save money and wins like today’s make me remember all those days. My caddie Montu Kumar from Delhi too has played a big part in my growth with his insights,” Sharma said while talking to The Indian Express. While Sharma’s family has not seen him play in any tournament, Sharma’s father Deen Dayal Sharma and mother Bhagwati Sharma have been waiting for their son to return and show them the winning trophy. “Akshay has made us proud and seeing him turn from a caddie to a golfer has changed his and our lives too. All of us wait for seeing his trophies and today will be same too,” said the senior Sharma.

Sharma, who had missed the cut in his first three tournaments as a professional of PGTI Tour in 2011, had 21 top-10 finishes on the PGTI Tour and PGTI Feeder Tour before playing in the PGTI Players Championship this week. It also included his first PGTI Tour win in the form of QA InfoTech Open played at Noida in 2018, a win which would help him finish 14th in PGTI Order of Merit in 2018. In 2017, Sharma had finished third in the Take Open, a tournament won by Chandigarh golfer Shubhankar Sharma and it was the first time that Sharma had been given a full golf set by Chandigarh Golf Club. “When I won my first prize money on the PGTI Tour in the PGTI Players Championship at Chandigarh, most of the money was saved for expenses for the next tournaments and it has remained the same till now. Watching golfers like Jeev Milkha Singh apart from caddie-turned-professional Harendra Gupta play at Chandigarh Golf Club would always inspire me and I would often seek tips and later play with them. During the QA InfoTech Open win in 2018, I sought tips from senior pro Shamim Khan. Golfers like Ranjit Singh and Randhir Singh Ghotra have helped me a lot. During the last two years, CGC captain S P S Matharoo has also supported me with my golfing expenses,” Sharma said.

On Saturday, Sharma sank five birdies and one eagle apart from two bogeys to end the final round with a score of five-under-67 and win the title. While Chandigarh lad Karandeep Kochhar, who carded a final round of five-under-67 to finish second, Sharma won the title with a PGTI Tour record score matching earlier record scores by Anirban Lahiri and Rashid Khan. “The eagle on the third hole with a 75-foot conversion made me approach the greens with an attacking mindset. While I was five shots ahead on the 10th hole, my focus was not to let the form slip. I could have made par on the last hole but a narrow miss resulted in bogey. I am glad that I matched the tour record,” Sharma said.

Sharma’s PGTI Tour earnings have also seen him buying a plot at Nayagaon and construct a new home, for which he has taken loan and would pay a part of loan from Saturday’s earnings, and Sharma shifted to the new home last month. Sharma, who missed the Asian Tour Q-School this year, plans to compete in the Asian Tour Q-School when things resume and is hopeful of getting a sponsor. “I am glad that I bought a plot from some of my earnings. All these years, Chandigarh Golf Club management, including current president Sandeep Singh Sandhu and former president B S Gill, have also supported me. I am targeting playing Asian Tour Q School and hopefully my wins can also help me get a sponsor,” Sharma said.

 

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