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THE LAST two months have seen 21-year-old Panchkula golfer Shubhankar Sharma travelling to Spain, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Johannesburg and Jakarta, and he had become the youngest Indian golfer to win a title on the European tour in the form of Joburg Open. On Sunday, Sharma won his fifth title on the PGTI circuit by winning the Mcleod Russel Tour Championship in Kolkata, edging out Delhi’s Rashid Khan by one shot to finish with an overall score of 17-under-271.
Sharma also matched the lowest winning score in the championship previously posted by Anirban Lahiri apart from winning a prize money of Rs 22,50,000.
“It feels great to end the year by winning a tournament. I could not have asked for a better finish. It was a neck-to-neck finish right from the start till the penultimate hole. Here at Kolkata, it is windy at this time of the year and the wind swirls which means one has to adjust the shot at the last moment. The fairways are narrow and greens are fast with roughs being up, so one has to find the fairways. I have been able to shoot some low scores during the last few months and my shot on the 15th hole to level with Rashid was crucial. Rashid too played well today. His putting was great and some mistakes in the later part of the final round meant that he lost narrowly,” said Sharma who shifted to Panchkula along with his family, including Col Mohan Sharma, last year.
The last two months have seen Sharma play in European Tour Q School in Spain, followed by Hong Kong open and Mauritius Open before the professional player became the youngest Indian golfer to win an European Tour event with the title win in Joburg Open this month. The win also meant that Sharma leapfrogged from world ranking 462 to 226th spot and an 11th place finish in Indonesian Masters last week has seen him rise to current world ranking of 202.
Next year will also see Sharma balance between European Tour and Asian Tour apart from leading the Indian charge in 147th Open Championship in Carnoustie, United Kingdom. “I have been playing continuously for the last two months and will take a break till January 15. I will be playing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the European Tour before playing in the Maybank Open. Winning the Joburg Open also got me the European Tour card and I will be playing on the Asian Tour as well. The wins help the world rankings and my focus is to enjoy the game. I have worked hard for where I am right now and there will be expectations. I will be spending time with my family and some time in the gym during this break as one wants to be fit before the start of the season,” said Sharma, who has played in 21 international tournaments this year with one title win and four top-ten finishes.
While PGTI recently announced its decision to become an open tour from next season, the Indian tour will host eight OOM events in the first half of the year apart from Indian Open, which will also offer world ranking points. Although Sharma will be missing the PGTI events in the coming year, the youngster counts this move as a positive one for the Indian golfers. “It was my fifth year here in PGTI and to win the season finale at Kolkata is something I will cherish. I started from PGTI and with my focus being on the European and Asian Tour, I will not play in PGTI this year. But this is the tour where I started. From next year, PGTI will become an Open Tour with world ranking points for some events. It will be good for Indian golfers as they can always return to the PGTI tour to earn world rankings points,” said Sharma, whose first title came in the form of PGTI Cochin Masters in 2014.