Lifted by two wins in as many months, India’s latest golfing star Shubhankar Sharma has earned his maiden spot in the World Golf Championships (WGC) to be held at the Club de Golf Chapultepec, here next month.
The entry into the tournament, to be held from March 1 to 4, will also fuel Subhankar’s ambition and dream of making it to the PGA Tour ultimately.
Shubhankar, who earned his breakthrough win in Joburg, which also fetched him a spot into the 2018 Open Championships at Carnoustie, added a second European Tour and Asian Tour co-sanctioned title in Malaysia last weekend with a stunning 10-under 62.
His stunning rise has seen him jump from 202 last year to 72nd place on the World Golf Rankings ahead ahead of Anirban Lahiri (76th).
Shubhankar is now leading both the Habitat for Humanity standings on Asian Tour and the Race to Dubai rankings standings on European Tour. The latter is what got him the spot into the Mexico event.
“I’m really excited as it was my goal to get into one WGC event this year. I knew I had to be in top-10 in Europe to get it done. I never imagined I would win in Malaysia as I wasn’t in contention going into the last day (he was four back) and there were so many players on the leaderboard,” he said.
“I’m really happy how things have changed for me. I can’t wait to play against the world’s best in Mexico,” Shubhankar added.
Shubhankar is eager to follow in the trail of close friends and senior Indian colleagues Lahiri and Arjun Atwal. The former is a two-time Presidents Cup star and a regular on the PGA TOUR while latter is India’s first and to-date only winner on the world’s premier circuit.
“The goal is to win the bigger tournaments and to play on higher tours. That’s what I’m looking at and I’m very focused about it. Playing on the PGA TOUR has always been my dream,” he said.
Shubhankar also hopes to qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin later in March.
For Shubhankar, the next goal will be to break into top-50 which can potentially reward him with invites to the Masters Tournament in April and THE PLAYERS Championship, which is the PGA Tour’s flagship tournament, in May.
“If I can get into top-50, I’ll get some opportunities in America and I will cherish those opportunities,” he said.
“Things are moving too fast for me and I am just trying to stay confident and keep playing well. It’s still some way to go but I’ll try to ride on the momentum.”
Golf fans beyond Asia would not have heard of Shubhankar’s name until his most recent success.
As a kid, he was encouraged to learn the game through the influence of Lahiri’s father, who served in the Indian army alongside his dad, Col Mohan Sharma.
After becoming India’s leading amateur, when he won the All-India Amateur title at the age of 16, Shubhankar turned professional.
“My dad is a great visionary and he saw my potential. I wasn’t convinced of turning pro at that age and others told me to wait as well. It was my dad’s decision and I followed his advice. Everything has fallen into place thanks to him,” he said.
Many of his peers have marvelled at how Shubhankar thrives under pressure and keeps a level head which he attributed to meditation taught by his mother, Neena.
“It really helps when I am in a tough spot, especially when I am not playing well. I try to control my breathing and stay in the moment as much as possible,” he explained.
“We’re a religious family and mum taught us to meditate by sitting down cross legged, doing some breathing exercises and just trying to clear your mind. It’s been our routine since we were kids.”
Shubhankar plans to stick to his winning recipe, which includes working continuously with long-time swing coach Jesse Grewal and Gurbaaz Maan, who tends to his club-fitting needs.
“Golf is a process. You put in the hard work and there is a time when everything bears fruit. You have to wait for the right moment. I won’t say I’m surprised (with the wins).
“When I turned pro, I always thought of achieving a certain level and knew there would be a day I would break into the world’s top-100,” he said.