Rigel Fernandes and Priyanshu Singh, who share an apartment in the University of South Florida, where the latter moved this year, are in no hurry to turn professional. And neither is Viraj Madappa, who just moved to a University in Texas.
All three of them have played the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships before, and cannot wait to tee off in the first round on Thursday. While Fernandes played for India in 2014 and finishes T-15, Priyanshu Singh and Madappa missed the cut. However, Madappa, is coming back for his third successive trip to the AAC at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon.
“Sure, the plan is to play pro golf, but I have not decided when to turn professional. College golf is great exposure and I love it,” said Fernandes, who left Dubai, where he was born and brought up, and moved to IMG Academy in US, when he was just past 10. Now in Florida, he has only a few months to finish college. “I was to gain more experience and then turn pro.” Would he wait for Asian Games in 2018? “Yes, that is a goal. I would love to represent India at the Asian Games in about 18 months. That would be cool and great,” adds Fernandes. Studying in Nova South Eastern till earlier this year, Priyanshu, who knew Fernandes, and dropped him a text to see if there was a spot available in Florida.
Fernandes got him in touch with his coach and soon things worked out. “Rigel was great help. He helped me get to college, to the team and we practice together. In fact we live barely a few feet away from each in the apartment, “ said Priyanshu. “Winning the All India Amateur was great last year and I beat Naveed Kaul, who is much younger but is here in the team in Incheon. I want to stay amateur, get a bit more of experience and then turn pro. Yes, the Asian Games would be a good goal to have before turning pro. All of India’s leading pro golfers have been to Asian Games and many have won medals.”
Madappa, who just went to US, said, “I am still getting used to US. Its great for golf and the facilities are superb. But I have also had a great exposure with Indians team in India.”
He, too, looks at Asian Games as a possible next step before joining money ranks.
Rayhan Thomas, who has been brought up in Dubai is already professional golf as an amateur and wants to come to India for some pro events. But right now he is fine with being amateur. “It will be nice to get to the Asian Games and represent India,” he feels.
Yuvraj Sandhu is new in the Indian team, while Naveed Kaul is just 16, and both are simply enjoying their golf.
On Thursday, Priyanshu, Madappa, Yuvraj and Rayhan go out in the morning session, while Rigel and Naveed Kaul play in the afternoon wave.