06 February 2019

The Next Indian Star

At the end of last year, India's Shubhankar Sharma captured the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings title after a groundbreaking year of achievements. This is the highest award that Sharma has achieved following his many brilliant performances over the past year.

Beginning with his career breakthrough at the 2017 Joburg Open, 22-year-old Sharma carried his winning momentum over to the new season and clinched his second Asian Tour title at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. While Sharma shone on the Asian Tour, he also secured a top-10 finish in the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship, played all four Major tournaments of the year, and was awarded the European Tour Rookie of the Year.

Speaking to the Asian Tour, Sharma said, “This year has been a huge learning curve for me. I've played in some of the biggest events I could ever imagine and learned a lot. I know I have the game to be among the best in the world and I just want to keep playing well and give my best shot.”

We took a look at the backstory of Sharma:

It’s been said that Anirban Lahiri is the reason Sharma started playing golf in the first place. Why was that?
Both Sharma and Lahiri’s fathers were members of the Indian army and were stationed together. Lahiri’s father was the doctor who delivered Sharma’s younger sister. Dr. Tushar Lahiri advised Col. Mohan Sharma to take his son to the golf course. No one in Sharma’s family had ever played golf, Sharma was the first one.

What was Sharma's first experience of playing golf like?
Shubhankar would accompany his father on the course. After a month or two, his father gave him a cut-down 2-iron. “That was my first club," said Sharma jr., as quoted by USA Today. Shubhankar didn't hit it very high, but he was straight. And he loved it!

Just like many Indian kids, Sharma played cricket after school and also played soccer. He chose golf over those other popular sports in India. Why was that?
“Golf was different,” explained Sharma. “That's what appealed to me. When I was 12 or 13, I knew I was going to be a professional golfer.”

The 22-year-old only spent nine years as an amateur. From first getting to know the game at the age of seven, Sharma turned pro at just 16 years of age. Why did he decide to become a pro player?
Sharma believes that move helped him think better and make decisions on the golf course. He always set the bar higher and believe that was the best way to push himself. “I always wanted to turn professional since I was a 13-years-old, though I didn’t have the game to win. I loved the pressure; playing in those conditions and coming out on top. It’s like you have to prove something to yourself. A lot of people told me not to turn pro but I thought I was ready as I wanted to set the bar higher for myself. For me, it was always about pushing myself. I thought I would learn more turning pro at a younger age and getting a head-start than staying amateur and winning everything,” said Sharma.

Before turning pro at 16, Sharma had two big achievements. What were they?
He won the All India Amateur Championship in 2013. In the same year, Sharma was India’s No. 1 junior prior to turning professional in 2013.

Sharma says that he has always enjoyed performing under pressure and has a secret to thriving under pressure. What is it?
Meditation is Sharma’s way to have a headstrong approach and calm attitude. Sharma credits his mother, Neena, for creating a spiritual environment at home that helped him get into the habit of meditating. “When I am traveling, it’s the best time to meditate and reflect on what I want to do. Even when I am on the course, I try to control my breath. That is very important as you get really under pressure. In order to keep myself calm, I take deep breathes and concentrate,” said Sharma, as quoted by Golf Digest.

What records did Sharma carve out when he won the Joburg Open in 2017 and the Maybank Championship in 2018?
He became the youngest Indian winner on the European Tour at the age of 21 when he claimed the Joburg Open in December 2017. The victory earned him a ticket to the 2018 British Open. Sharma also became the first Indian to lead the European Tour Race to Dubai when he achieved victory at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia in February 2018.

Playing on the PGA Tour has always been every professional’s dream, including Sharma’s. Is that his biggest goal?
No, playing on the PGA Tour is just part of it. Sharma gave some insight into his ultimate goal, explaining, “If I can get into the top-50, I’ll get some opportunities in America and I will cherish those opportunities. Things are moving too fast for me, and I am just trying to stay confident and keep playing well. The goal is to win the bigger tournaments and to play on the higher tours. That’s what I’m looking at and I’m focused about it.”


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