India’s Asian Tour stalwarts Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Anirban Lahiri heaped praise on Shubhankar Sharma who produced a gutsy performance to finish tied ninth at the World Golf Championships in Mexico City.
The 21-year-old Sharma, who currently leads the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings, was the youngest player in the elite field but showed maturity beyond his age when he led by two shots in the second and third rounds.
Sharma finished a commendable tied ninth following a disappointing 74 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec but earned the respect from his fellow Indian golf stars who believe that the immensely talented young golfer has a bright future ahead of him.
Atwal, the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour and an eight-time Asian Tour winner, said Sharma’s calm demeanour has been the key to his meteoric rise.
“I met Shubhankar when he was 17 or 18 years old in Royal Calcutta Golf Club when he came over to play in the Indian Tour season-ending tournament. I’ve always been interested to know the kids who were coming up from India and we were introduced.
“I liked him right away as he came across as a mature person. He has like an older soul and I kind of gelled with him right away and liked how he came across as a person,” said Atwal.
Sharma was tied with two-time Masters champion, Bubba Watson (67) and Canadian Adam Hadwin (66).
Atwal added, “Over time, I’ve played practice rounds with him, and followed his progress on the Indian Tour and Asian Tour and at a young age, it was good to see his progress.
“To me, he has a very calm attitude. I like that about him. He doesn’t get flustered, he takes everything in his stride and that’s what I’ve always noticed about him. He’s been very level headed since I have known him.”
2015 Asian Tour number one Lahiri, who has close family ties with Sharma as his father, a gynaecologist helped deliver Sharma’s sister, was delighted to watch his compatriot win two events on the Asian Tour and European Tour since last December and continue his fine form in his WGC debut.
“When you’re in a habit of winning, it’s easier to get over the line whatever the stage. You know how to win. He’s a very tenacious and feisty competitor. He approaches his golf aggressively and he’s a confident guy. That’s the confidence he has. He has all those qualities.
“The differentiating factor between him and other 21 year-olds is how he approaches tournaments and his mental ability to focus and to separate himself from the noise, especially during big events and even on the world stage,” said Lahiri, who has a full PGA Tour card.
Jeev Milkha, a two-time Asian Tour number one, predicts that Sharma can taste more success in the future.
“As a child, he has respect for his seniors, his conduct is amazing. Playing with fellow competitors, he is very good, very respectful and the third thing is that he believes in making his clubs do the talking.
“He just wants to win. He’s not bothered with what he can get if he wins. He just wants to win as many events as possible and make a name for himself in the world of golf.
“I was telling someone else the other day that the knowledge these kids have, they can become better than what I have done, what Arjun (Atwal) has done or what Anirban (Lahiri) has done.”