From Left – The Indian challenge – Arjun Gupta, Aryan Roopa Anand, Milind Soni, Akshay Neranjan, Rohan Dhole Patil and Shubham Jaglan
Dubai, Nov 2: Rohan Dhole Patil, India’s highest ranked amateur player in the field, was not clear that a win at the 12th Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships would get him into both the Masters and The Open next year. In contrast, Aryan Roopa Anand and Shubham Jaglan, his teammates have thought about nothing but the rewards that a winner gets.
They are part of the six-member Indian team, which is also joined by another Dubai-based India and all are making their debut at AAC. The team is Rohan Dholepatil (25), Arjun Gupta (17), Akshay Neranjan (20), Shubham Jaglan (17), the 2019 All India Amateur winner Aryan Roopa Anand (19) and Milind Soni (16). Yet another Indian, Arkesh Bhatia has made the field as a nomination from the Emirates Golf Association.
The 19-year-old Bengalurean Roopa Anand, who won the 2019 All India Amateur Championships, said, “It was surreal (when told that he would be in the Indian team for AAC), because this is I think one of the biggest events in amateur golf for people on the Asian side. It’s like a dream come true. It’s my dream to be in the Masters and The Open. This is an opportunity to do that. I was elated, I was very excited. I got to know about this a month and a half prior, and it’s the only thing I could look forward to.”
He admitted he has been training with this event in mind for the last month and more. “I had very good training days with my coach (Tarun Sardesai) and we had a couple of events, as well, in India, so that gave us that little bit of preparation heading into this event. So it’s been a good two months. A lot of trial and error and heading into this week, I know what I need to be doing and I know where my head is.”
Talking of how he dealt with the pandemic and keeping fit during that period, the Indian amateur champion said, “It was tough. When you’re in form you want to play as many events as you want and you want to go out there and compete day‑in and day‑out, and obviously we were all locked in our homes. But I think as athletes, as sportsmen, we try to make the best out of whatever situation we are in and I think that is what me, my coach and my trainers did. So we did a lot of home workouts and chipping in the backyard. Even during the pandemic, I was at my base. I was at Zion Hills (withy Sardesai) in the academy, so we were doing some indoor training together and obviously in terms of the fitness aspect, it made a huge difference and I could surely see it in the next few months.
“I took it as a blessing in disguise. I worked on the things that we felt we didn’t have time to work on. You try and take the positive out of everything, and I feel that is something that we did.”
On the other hand, Patil, ever since he heard what was at stake, said, “I have been thinking only about that. I am in good form and I liked the Dubai Creek course and I am raring to go.”
A latecomer to golf, Patil, who was three times runner-up at Zonal events in India, added, “I began playing golf only in 2008 or so when I was 13-14. I played badminton in my school days and then picked up golf and I liked it it better. Originally when I started playing golf, I thought it was an easy sport. Now I have discovered the challenges of the sport and it has become my passion. This is the biggest event I have ever played.”
Jaglan, 17, a prodigy of sorts, who came from a family of wrestlers and from a village, went to United States for college, because he felt, “Even though I love golf, what if golf were not there. I had an injury and then came Covid. So, with the help of my coach and mentor, Nonita Lall Qureshi, I got a place at the University of South Florida, where I went a few months ago and will return after this week. She helped me a lot in golf and outside golf.”
“Playing for college, where it is very competitive, has made me solid,” added Jaglan, who arrived late on Monday and missed the practice round as he had to take a Covid test and wait for results. “I knew I would miss the practice round, but its fine. This is a great opportunity to play with the best amateurs in Asia, many of whom study and play golf in the US.”
Once his negative result came, Jaglan walked around and studied the course even though he could not play.
The annual championship, which offers a spot on two of the most prestigious major championships next year – the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and The Open at St Andrews’ Old Course – was not held in 2021 due to the pandemic.