Prodigal returns to correct course

It was a moment out of another regular day’s channel toggling that broke the spell. Mohammad Wazir,years away from his early life of perfecting golf swing nuances and running away with age-group tournaments...

Written by Aabha Rathee | Noida | Published: February 16, 2009 12:33:10 am

It was a moment out of another regular day’s channel toggling that broke the spell. Mohammad Wazir,years away from his early life of perfecting golf swing nuances and running away with age-group tournaments,caught the sight of former world No 1 Vijay Singh on television,and it was enough,it seems,to bring him out of his self-enforced sabbatical.

The 24-year-old,who was India’s top junior for four years,was playing his first national amateur circuit tournament in almost eight years this week at the Noida Open. On borrowed clubs and balls and a day’s practice,he made it through the qualifying field,and did well enough to make the last two rounds. Friday afternoon’s 24th place finish is not one likely to thrill most players. For Wazir,it was sweet as a victory.

Wazir was 16 when he began the process of giving up on a blooming career that had seen an extremely healthy trophy collection at home and a more than robust reason for hope for those who had seen him play. At the age of eight,the Delhi Golf Club boy had pleaded with his father,a caddy at the DGC,to let him learn the game after watching Ali Sher,a distant uncle of his,win the Indian Open title in 1991 and 1993.

Wazir won his age category in the first tournament he played,caught the eye of club coach Romit Bose,and for five years,dominated the country’s junior circuit.

“Wazir was something of a child prodigy,” says Anirban Lahiri,a former India No 1 amateur. “He would break par at difficult courses like the RCGC at that age,was a pretty name in regular India teams,and seemed really talented.”

Adds Rahil Gangjee,a senior professional,who was an age category years senior to Wazir during their junior days: “Wazir looked like he had the potential to do really well before he just disappeared.”

In 2000,Wazir’s first amateur season,he made,though lost,the semi-final of the All-India Amateur,to the now European Tour regular Shiv Kapur,travelled around Asian international tournaments as part of the Indian team,and was on his way to becoming the next best thing,before somebody pressed pause.

“I fell in love with a girl,and slowly golf just dropped out of the priority list,” Wazir says,speaking to Newsline on Friday. When his family complained,Wazir moved out of his house to live with friends,left playing,and disappeared from the golf circuit. The relationship did not work out,and that added to the gloom.

“I got into bad company and just hit rock bottom. When my parents,or other people would try to tell me I as going wrong,I would just dismiss their words. I lost the respect of players,lost my own confidence,” Wazir says. Meanwhile,he fell and broke his leg in an accident.

“I spent four years like that,surviving on loans and a bit of caddying,” he says. Before that one moment that was enough to make him return home.

Last week,when his father sat him down like all those days before to tell him to start afresh,he decided this was it. “I entered this tournament,borrowed some clubs and balls,hit a few practice balls,and came to play,” he says.

Wazir says his aim now is to get where he was,at the top.

“It is going to be very difficult,but I know I have a game that is good enough. I want to play the complete amateur circuit the next season,and win it,before the next step of turning professional,” he says.

Bose,Wazir’s coach from the early days,says he would love to get back to doing that again. “He had a natural talent. Getting back will be a big challenge because golf has changed as a sport,becoming more of a power game,” says Bose. “But if he’s making a sincere effort,it’ll be great to see it happen.”

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