SHUBHANKAR SHARMA still remembers reading about Jeev Milkha Singh becoming the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion in 2008 and becoming the only Indian golfer to win the order of merit twice. Twenty-two-year-old Sharma was then a 10-year-old young golfer starting his golfing career. On Saturday, the Panchkula golfer became the fifth and youngest Indian golfer to become the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion with two events remaining and with a current prize money of $755, 944. Sharma will play in the Indonesian Masters next week and with his lead of $194,046 over second-placed Sanghyun Park of Korea, Sharma will pocket the Asian Order of Merit crown. Jyoti Randhawa (2002), Arjun Atwal (2003), Jeev Milkha Singh (2006 and 2008) and Anirban Lahiri (2015) had achieved the feat in the past.
“When Jeev sir won the Asian Order of Merit for the first time in 2006, I did not know about it as I was young. But when he won it for the second time in 2008, I remember reading about it in newspapers and golf magazines. It was a dream to achieve the feat and becoming the youngest Indian golfer to do so is a special feeling. After I won the Maybank championship, I was in the lead on the Asian Order of Merit and I am glad that I could maintain my lead till the end. It all started with Joburg open last year and then winning the Maybank Championship and a top-10 finish in World Golf Championship in Mexico. I wanted to continue my fine form, which I was able to do and winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit will motivate me for future,” said Sharma, who was also awarded the prestigious Arjuna Award this year.
Sharma, who had finished 77th and 55th in the Asian Order of Merit in 2015 and 2016, finished seventh in last year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit with one title win in the form of Joburg Open. This year has seen Sharma playing in six tournaments on the Asian tour with one win in the form of Maybank Championship apart from playing in 12 tournaments on the European Tour. Last 12 months also saw Sharma playing in all the four majors apart from claiming a tied-ninth place finish in the World Golf Championship in Mexico. Last month, Sharma finished sixth in Hong Kong Open, which was his 11th consecutive tournament in as many weeks and it also assured him a good lead over second-placed Park and South Africa’s Justin Harding in Order of Merit.
“I wanted to play in Hong Kong and the sixth place meant that I extended my lead. Playing on the PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Tour apart from the four major championships, has helped me play in different golf courses and taking new challenges. All such things help a youngster like me. Finishing tied-ninth in WGC in Mexico was also a special feeling and competing in all the four majors made me learn new things. I wanted to take rest for two weeks and I am eager to compete in Indonesia next week and hopefully I can end the season on a winning note,” said Sharma.
Two-time Asian Order of Merit winner Jeev Milkha Singh believes that winning the Asian Order of Merit will help Sharma’s confidence. “When I won the Asian Order of Merit for the first time in 2006, it made me believe that I can compete at the world stage and won there as well. I have to say just one thing about Shubhankar’s feat. It’s the start of many good times for this talented kid and he has got a lot of potential. When he will compete on bigger tours like European Tour and PGA Tour as Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, it will give him a lot of confidence. Being the champion also assures him a spot in next year’s British open apart from WGC and a five-year exemption on Asian Tour,” said Singh, who will also be playing in next week’s Indonesian Masters.