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Shubhankar Sharma gears up for Paris Olympics with Anirban Lahiri's guidance

Shubhankar, ranked 48th in the Olympic Golf Rankings, feels Anirban’s experience of competing in back-to-back Olympics will be useful.

Shubhankar Sharma gears up for Paris Olympics with Anirban Lahiris guidance

Shubhankar Sharma in action at the Hero Indian Open. (Special Arrangement)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 30 March 2024 5:50 AM GMT

Gurgaon: Shubhankar Sharma has known Anirban Lahiri even before he picked up a golf stick. Shubhankar took up golf at seven after being encouraged by Anirban, who had become an amateur by then. His mother’s obstetrician was Anirban’s father Tushar Lahiri.

The Army kids have since shared a unique bromance on and off the course. In the pre-tournament presser for the ongoing Hero Indian Open, Anirban praised Shubhankar’s maturity and how he has developed himself as a professional golfer over the years.

“I would say Ajeetesh (Sandhu), Gaganjeet (Bhullar), myself, Himmat Rai to some extent, we were one batch that came through about 15 odd years ago. Then you had a batch of Chikkarangappa, Rashid Khan, and Angad Cheema. Shubhankar was a little after that because he turned pro early and then peaked a little later. But then, of course, Shubhankar kind of pulled away from the pack, he is phenomenal. I am very fond of him. Fantastic guy. Great golfer, amazing talent,” Lahiri told reporters at the DLF Golf and Country Club here.

Shubhankar, currently ranked 188th, is the frontrunner to represent India in the 2024 Paris Olympics placed at the 48th spot in the Olympic Golf Rankings created by the International Golf Federation (IGF). 11-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar is close by at the 52nd spot with June 17 as the cut-off date for the men’s golf competition.

Shubhankar feels Anirban’s experience of competing in back-to-back Olympics – Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 – will come in handy in his maiden Games appearance. And if the latter accompanies him on that flight to Paris, that would be the best thing to happen, believes the 27-year-old.

“I can say he is a brother to me for many years. We spend a lot of time in Dubai together along with our agents too. So, we are playing all the time. I am always staying with him. I have learned a lot from him and many things and it’s good to have someone like him to always share my thoughts. He also looks forward to what I think will come from me because I can understand some of the pressures of the game at the highest level right now," said Shubhankar.

“I am playing with him (Anirban) this week, Om Prakash Chouhan is there (playing on the DP World Tour) now but I have been there for some time. That way we share a very good record. Hopefully, he will join me in Paris also. He doesn’t get too many opportunities to make world-ranking points. Honestly, he is definitely in the top 80. Hopefully, things work out for him,” Shubhankar told The Bridge.

In a tight spot to gain crucial world ranking points for earning a spot in the Paris Olympics, Anirban, ranked 401st globally, is taking a chance by competing in the $2.25 million tournament here, which he also calls the ‘fifth Major’.

A total of 60 golfers each in the men’s and women’s categories get a chance to represent the country at the Olympics considering their world rankings, with the host country getting two guaranteed spots – one each among men and women.

Le Golf National, the host venue for the Paris 2024 Games, has an interesting co-relation with the DLF Golf and Country Club, which Shubhankar calls his ‘second home’. They are the top 2 courses in terms of slope rating – Le Golf National (152) and DLF course (150) – on the DP World Tour. Interestingly, Shubhankar said that the Paris venue is one of his favourites outside India and his top-10 result at the British Open has made him more confident in his game.

In golf, the Slope Rating determines the difficulty of the course. It can range from 55 to 155 with the higher number indicating the relative difficulty to shoot low scores. It depends on the gradient of the greens and the overall layout.

“DLF is mostly like my second home. But I come here only once a year when I play. When you play the course so many times, you subconsciously know where to head, and what to do. Execution is different. You have to still go and execute it," said Shubhankar

“Playing well in the British Open last year at least gave me that confidence that I can play with the best at the highest stage and compete. Now at the Olympics, it’s going to be no different and especially it’s at a course where I've played before many times. It’s a world-class course and it’s one of the courses where I feel like I can play well and I’m content with my game. So I’m looking forward to it. It will be good fun,” the Arjuna awardee elaborated.

Of late, Shubhankar is focussing more on his fitness in the last few months to end his six-year title drought on the DP World Tour. The two-time DP World Tour champion had last won the Maybank Championship in 2018 and is working on his core and glutes to keep himself injury-free.

“I perform a lot of golf-specific exercises. The main goal is to prevent injuries because when you’re playing for so long and you’re swinging at 110, 150, 180 miles an hour, especially with the driver and then different irons twisting the body. It’s a very unnatural position. So you have to do a lot of correction work,” he explained.

Currently coached by the first Dronacharya awardee in Golf, Jesse Grewal, Shubhankar is expected to lead the charge for Indian golf at the 2024 Paris Olympics along with the likes of Aditi Ashok and Diksha Kumari in the women's category.

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