Dubai, Nov 1: Two 17-year-old Indian amateurs living far from their homes are hoping to have a life-changing week as they tee up at the 12th edition of the storied Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship which gets underway at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on Wednesday.
The shy-soft spoken Dubai-based Arjun Gupta, and the self-taught Shubham Jaglan, who has lived a life under the spotlight as a child prodigy since the age of six, hope to take the next big step in their golf careers. Gupta and Jaglan are part of the Indian contingent of AAC debutants.
Though Gupta played some golf in India three years ago, he is born and brought up in Dubai, where his parents live and work. The other Indians in the field are Rohan Dholepatil (25), Akshay Neranjan (20), 2019 All India Amateur winner Aryan Roopa Anand (19) and Milind Soni (16).
Arkesh Bhatia, who holds Indian nationality, is playing this week on a nomination from the Emirates Golf Association.
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.
Though Gupta played some golf in India three years ago, he is born and brought up in Dubai, where his parents live and work. Jaglan grew up in a family of wrestlers in a village called Israna in Haryana but is now a freshman at the University of Florida.
The shy and soft-spoken Arjun, who reached the Round of 16 at the US Junior Amateurs, is quite experienced in a manner of speaking, as he has also played in European Tour events in Abu Dhabi and secured a fourth-place finish in Jordan on the MENA pro tour in the Middle East. He was also the winner of the Faldo Series Middle East in 2019 and runner-up at the Grand Final. Interestingly, his twin sister, Natalii will play in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship in Abu Dhabi next week.
In 2015, Arjun and Natalii teamed up at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club to win the Emirates Creek Pairs tournament.
A huge fan of Rory McIlroy, Arjun said, “I have been preparing for this event ever since I heard I was in the list. I know about the AAC and it was cool to see the flags with pictures of the winners of previous editions. I saw the picture of Hideki Matsuyama, who won twice, and has now won the Masters, too. That is very inspiring. I want to play my best and have a shot at playing the Masters and the Open.”
Talking of his experience at playing the Dubai Creek, he added, “I have played here a lot and I like the course. Though of late I have been playing at other courses, in the past month or so I have been here often.”
On how he came to play golf, Arjun said, “I always used to hit balls with plastic clubs around the house from a young age, but I didn’t start playing with proper clubs until I was six. My father bought me my first set of clubs and he took me and Natalii (sister) over to the Montgomerie Course (in Dubai) where we played on a course for the first time”
One of the highpoints of his young career has been an interaction with McIlroy and said, “I was lucky enough to have a lesson with him and he gave me some pointers on my game, which has really helped me progress.”
Another compelling story in Indian team is Shubham Jaglan, touted as a child prodigy as he won virtually every event he played before he turned 10. Now studying and pursuing golf in Florida, Jaglan, 17, turned to golf because his grandfather wanted him to choose a sport other than wresting. “That was despite no one having played or heard about golf in my family,” he said recently.
Self-taught and through watching golf videos on YouTube, Jaglan, later had Arjuna Awardee and well-known Nonita Lall Qureshi as his coach and mentor. He has also been through some injuries despite his young age but is now in Florida and looking forward to s fruitful career.
Jaglan, a medallist in various age-groups at the IMG World Juniors in San Diego, has also been on Ted Talks and this AAC experience could well be the beginning of a new stage in his career.
The team is accompanied by Farzan Heerjee, a veteran golf official and part of the Indian Golf Union.