Shubhankar Sharma the star of stellar 2018 for Indian golf
New Delhi: Shubhankar Sharma was without doubt the biggest star but wasn't the only winner that Indian golf celebrated in a stellar year, which also featured strong performances by amateurs and the ladies.
The calendar year 2018 saw six professional wins for the country's golfers.
Four of them were on the Asian Tour and two of them co-sanctioned by Europe and another by Japan.
A sixth title came from Rahil Gangjee, who took 14 years to register an Asian Tour win, and then added a second title on the Asian Development Tour in Bengaluru. The Indians continued to be a huge force on home soil and won two of the three Asian Tour events in India and an additional ADT title, too.
The 22-year-old Sharma turned pro when he was still a few months away from his 17th birthday in 2013 but showed that he had it in him to make it big.
Criss-crossing the world, Sharma, after his monumental success in winning the Joburg Open in December 2017, added the Maybank Championships in February this year.
Then he juggled the USPGA, the European and the Asian Tours. He played no less than 33 events plus the US Open qualifiers, missed a lot of cuts (14), but made the world sit up and take note by leading on his WGC debut at Mexico.
He played the final round with Phil Mickelson and eventually ended Tied-ninth. Later in the year he led into the final at CIMB Classic, also a PGA tour event co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, but ended T-10.
"I am proud that I managed two Top-10s on PGA Tour events," said Sharma.
He was given a special invite to the Masters and went on to play all four Majors and four WGC events.
He took early lead in the Asian Tour standings and held on to it to become the fifth but the youngest Indian to win the Order of Merit.
He basked in glory at the Tour's finale in Jakarta, where veterans like Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal, both past winners of the OOM, and Anirban Lahiri, another Order of Merit topper, stood and applauded the young lad.
He also won the Harry Cotton Rookie of the Year on European Tour, where he also played the year-end Tour Championships in Dubai. And it was all made sweeter by the Arjuna Award in August-September.
"This was certainly the best year of my life and no matter what I achieve, I will always cherish 2018 and to better it will be my goal," said Sharma.
If Sharma held the spotlight for most of the year, Rahil Gangjee made the much-awaited comeback to limelight. After winning in his rookie year back in 2004, he was winless as he travelled to Web.Com Tour and came back to Asia a few years ago.
Time and again he came close, but finally broke through for a second time at the Asia-Pacific Open at a co-sanctioned event in Japan, which opened the doors of Japan Tour for him. He later added an ADT title in Bengaluru winning the Louis Philippe Cup. pti