AT THE start of the week, 28-year-old Chandigarh golfer Ajeetesh Sandhu did not have a full Asian tour card. On Sunday, Sandhu, who will turn 29 on Monday, won his maiden title on the Asian Tour in the $500,000 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship at Taipei. With the win, Sandhu became the 10th first-time winner on the Asian Tour this season. Excerpts from an interview
How were the conditions and what was going on in your mind during the last hole?
When I slept last night, I was relaxed and did not think about me being in joint lead. In Asia, conditions can change quickly and that’s what happened today with a lot of winds blowing across the course. The greens were playing a bit rough and it was the toughest day for me. My second shot on the last hole hit the bunker and that’s when I thought about the win. I used a 5-wood and the 25-feet shot made things easier for me. We all appreciate the way Lu has played after having a surgery for brain tumour and such things motivates us as well.
You were playing on the country exemption card in the tournament. Having played only eight tournaments in the Asian Tour in last three years, how do you see this win?
Last month, when I played in Take Solution Masters in Bengaluru, the third-place finish did give me a lot of confidence. I was playing with Shiv Kapur and he told me that I am hitting the ball well. Playing on exemption quota always means that we want to utilise the chance the most. I played in six tournaments in the Japan Tour this year after securing the card and was planning to play the rest of the season in Japan. But this win has changed things for me. I have secured full Asian tour card till 2019. I will now consult my coaches, former international golfer Gurbaz Mann and Jesse Grewal.
Jeev too played a lot on the Japan tour in his career. How has he been an influence and how was your experience playing in Japan?
Ever since I started playing golf, we have heard about Jeev and we train together at the CGA Range. Whenever he hit a bad patch, he would always play on the Japan Tour and improve his rankings. And when I decided to play in the Japan Tour Q School, I had a word with him. He told me that courses in Japan play straight and I had to play straight shots. My caddie in Japan Naomi Kanda, who has worked with 31-time Japan Tour winner Shingo Katayama, told me a lot of things about the courses in Japan and things like these help in other countries.
This win also means that your world rankings will improve from current ranking of 884 to around 400. With Tokyo Olympics happening in three years, what are your future plans and what are the major challenges?
Rankings do count in golf and the better rankings you get, the more tournaments you play. Mastering the Asian Tour will be the key for me. Three years is a long time but yes, Tokyo will be an aim for me like all other Indian professional golfers. Today’s win has broken a barrier for me at the international level.