Viraj Madappa— Youngest Indian to Win Asian Tour Golf Title
Viraj Madappa, who is from Kolkata but based in Bengaluru, became the youngest Indian Golfer to win an Asian Tour title.
On 12th August this year Viraj Madappa won the $ 3,50,000 TAKE Solutions Masters in Bengaluru with an impressive tournament tally of 16 – under 268. His win at 20 years and 9 months bettered Gaganjeet Bhullar’s record of having won a similar title at 21 years and 3 months. Here’s what Viraj said to Vijayan Bala about his career till date and Golf - the sport he has taken up as a profession.
When and how did you take up Golf?
I started playing golf when I was 8. My parents took me to Mr. Indrajit Bhalotia, the golf coach at The Tollygunge Club and RCGC. Mr. Bhalotia encouraged me to try my hand at golf and I have been playing this game ever since. I learnt the basics of Golf from Mr. Bhalotia.
Who all have coached you till date?
After learning the basics in golf from Mr. Indrajit Bhalotia, my coach suggested in 2016 that I move to Bengaluru where I would have access to sports fitness facilities, sports nutritionists and the Golf coach Mr. Tarun Sardesai. Since 2016 I have been coached by Mr. Tarun Sardesai in Bengaluru.
Did you try to model yourself on any star?
I did not model myself on any specific golf star but I do try to learn from the games of legends like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
Tell us about your greatest moment till this day?
My greatest moment till date will naturally be my maiden Asian Tour victory
at TAKE Solutions Masters on 12th August at Bengaluru. I earned my Asian Tour card this year and I am very happy that I could win a tournament in my home country and in my rookie year. However, I also have wonderful memories of my victories at the All India Juniors which have always been special.
Have you noticed any difference between playing abroad and in India?
I have played a lot of Junior and Amateur golf internationally. There is not a great difference in the ability and competitive spirit of young golfers in India and abroad. However, the number of golfers playing competitive golf in India is very small while the field in other countries in Asia and in US is quite deep. This leads to more competition between players. Also, there are a number of top notch golf courses abroad where one can play. Colleges there also encourage the sport, which results in more players training to be golfers while getting an education in a good college.
This is not possible in India where golf is generally not recognised in colleges as a sport that needs to be encouraged.
How do you think other countreis make Champions?
I feel world champions are made more by talent and hard work than the fact where the person is born. Golf is relatively an unknown sport in India and as there are not many youngsters taking up the game competitively; we have not had any world champions as yet. However, things are changing and players like Shubhankar Sharma, Anirban Lahiri, Shiv Kapur are creating a name for themselves in international golf. Further, players like Gaganjeet Bhullar, Rahil Gangjee and Ajeetesh Sandhu are doing very well in Asia. We must not forget that we have had some exceptional golfers from India like Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Singh Atwal who have made a mark internationally and have popularized the game in India.
Do you think India will take lead in International Golf any time soon?
I think very soon we will see Indian players in the top ranks of international golf. The names I mentioned earlier have all the potential to break into the big league and come up trumps.
These players lack nothing that a winner in golf should have.
Finally, how does the sport Golf help a person grow and develop?
Golf is one of the most disciplined sports. It is a ‘Gentleman’s game’ and teaches you to respect your competitors. Honesty and integrity are paramount for the player’s conduct while playing the game. Being an individual sport, it is only hard work and dedication that makes a player. Hence, Golf teaches one to be disciplined, hard working and honest.