Picture: From left Samantha, Coco, Daniel, Casper, caddie Camp and Jazz
May 27: Daniel Chopra is as gracious as he is talented. The Indo-Swede, two-time winner on the PGA Tour, and who also works as a commentator at some Majors, has opened his heart and doors for Jazz Janewattananond, and his caddie, Camp Pulit.
Even as Jazz waits it out for the Lockdown to end and the PGA Tour to resume, he has been staying with Chopra, his wife, Samantha and their two children, Coco and Casper.
Jazz’s caddie, according to Chopra, is a great cook. So they all feast on some excellent Thai food, while Jazz stays and practises with Chopra.
The 24-year-old Jazz, ranked 39thin the world when the rankings were frozen mid-March, will be among thee players returning to action at the Charl Schwab Challenge when the TOUR resumes play on June 11 under a new Health and Safety Plan.
He is also likely to play the RBC Heritage, The Memorial Tournament and WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational. Jazz hopes those starts will help him secure membership on the PGA TOUR. He can also look forward to three of the four majors in the re-worked 2020 schedule.
“These next few events … it’s going to be great. I won’t really care what I shoot honestly, I just want to play tournament golf again. I’ve got a few other events lined up and my team is asking for invites. I’m lucky we get to play golf again as every tour around the world is closed.”
When the lockdown happened and flights were being halted, Jazz decided to stay back in the US and wait out the period. Thee shutdown due to Covid-19 has stretched to over two months.
He has sacrificed a lot as he has been away from his family since late February. He even lost his grandfather in this period but could not attend the funeral.
“I’ve tried to keep the spirit up. It feels like you’re in a tunnel and I’m trying to get to the end of the tunnel. It’s tough when you’re far away from home,” he said.
“A few weeks ago, my grandfather passed away and I was sad I couldn’t be there for my mum and family. I miss them very much but thanks to technology, we Facetime regularly. They are letting me do what I want and reminding me to stay safe and healthy.”
Jazz, who has met Chopra on Asian Tour, ran into him again at Bay Hill during the week of Palmer Invitational. When the shutdown happened, Jazz was initially in a hotel, but Chopra invited him and his caddie, to stay at his house in Orlando.
Jazz said, “When the shutdown happened, I didn’t want to go back to Thailand as we weren’t sure how long the break would last. And then, our country shut down and it was too late to get home. I know Daniel as he plays in Asia but I didn’t realise he lives and practices at Bay Hill. We had a hotel room booked for two weeks but he made us stay with him. It was good to have some familiar faces around … it felt like family.”
Jazz has found great company in Chopra and his wife, Samantha and their two children Casper and Coco.
Jazz loved Bay Hill that and took up a club membership. If he secures his PGA TOUR card, Jazz will not hesitate to consider setting up base near the iconic club.
He is thankful the Chopras, saying, “Everything was closed here, except for stuff related to health and groceries. Our daily routine was wake up, think about what I’m going to eat next, stare out of the window, and repeat,” he laughed.
“When golf was restricted, we tried to spice things up in our daily life. We played basketball and Casper would beat us easily. I also spent time wake boarding and wake surfing and Samantha plays tennis so we played a bit to keep active.”
When golf facilities reopened, Jazz and Chopra participated in one-day competitions to get the adrenaline flowing again. “I just miss the travelling and going out to play, meeting new people. We played in several mini tour events … one day, we got up at 5am, drove for two hours to the course and teed up. I shot one-under in the first event and didn’t make my money back (from the entry fee) and in the second one, I shot two-under and tied Daniel in third place.”
The 46-year-old Chopra won his first PGA TOUR event at the 2007 Ginn sur Mer Classic and two events later claimed the season-opening 2008 Tournament of Champions, beating Steve Stricker in a playoff.
Jazz has interacted with Chopra and practised together. “Daniel has a golf net at home and I’ve been grinding. We’ve played golf almost every day together and Daniel’s a great guy and a great golfer. He loves a side game and when he needs to make a putt, it just comes up for him. I guess that’s why he’s a PGA TOUR winner. Casper, who is 10, is a good golfer too. I wasn’t as good as him when I was his age and he would hit balls all day long. I consider myself a range rat but he’s out-practising all of us. It kind of gives us a boost for our love towards golf. It’s a good reminder,” said Jazz.
With international travel and requirements differing from one country to another, Jazz is looking at extending his visa to remain in the U.S. beyond its current expiration in August. With the U.S. Open slated in September and Masters Tournament in November, he is keeping his options open to staying on in the country for remainder of the year.
“If I go back to Thailand, I don’t know if we’ll have to go through quarantine or if it’ll be easy to return to the U.S. I’m happy here so maybe it’ll be better to stay on. No one expected this to happen in our lifetime. You’re just moving along and then this happens. A lot of people are more united and helping each other out and I think humanity will come out on the better side of this.
“For Daniel and Samantha to open up their home to me and my caddie, they have helped me out so much. You see the nicer part of people and the best of people coming out to help one another.”
Jazz, Asia No. 1 in 2019, won four times in Asia last year and then had Top-5 finishes in Hong Kong and Singapore in January, 2020. He was T53 at the WGC-Mexico Championship but missed the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and then shot an opening 76 in THE PLAYERS Championship before the TOUR’s flagship event was cancelled due to the coronavirus. His run saw him rise spectacularly up the world-ranking ladder.
(with inputs from PGA Tour)