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India’s PGA Tour Lone Ranger still has plenty of pizzazz as he nears 50

India’s PGA Tour Lone Ranger still has plenty of pizzazz as he nears 50

The Asansol-born Atwal is now the only Indian holding a PGA Tour card – even one with limited playing opportunities – after Anirban Lahiri gave up his Tour membership to join the Greg Norman-run LIV Golf series earlier this year.

Arjun Atwal Arjun Atwal

Arjun Atwal may be nearing 50, but still retains plenty of the fire that made him the only Indian to have won on the prestigious PGA Tour.

The Asansol-born Atwal is now the only Indian holding a PGA Tour card – even one with limited playing opportunities – after Anirban Lahiri gave up his Tour membership to join the Greg Norman-run LIV Golf series earlier this year.

And while he may be looking forward to playing on the Champions (senior) tour past his 50th birthday on March 20, 2023, Atwal showed he had lost none of his skills and touch on a golf course at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in the last week of October.

Picking up his set to make in his first competitive appearance in three months, Atwal surprised even himself with a stunning opening round of eight-under par 63 on the opening day at the Port Royal Golf Club in Southampton, Bermuda.

Though he would eventually finish well down the order in tied 49th place at the $6.5 million event, Atwal had made a point, to himself more than anybody else.

Just weeks earlier, he lost his father, Harminder Singh ‘Bindi’ Atwal, a pillar in the golfer’s life from the very early years.

“I've never had a loss in my immediate family, so it's really hard to deal with,” Atwal said after the first day in Bermuda. “And with my parents, they lived in India. My mom still lives in India. Not having seen them for all these years, it was really tough on me.”

Tough is exactly what you get in Arjun Atwal. Having turned professional 27 years ago, in 1995, he earned his PGA Tour card via the Qualifying School in 2003 and became a full-time member of the world’s most coveted golf circuit the following year.

In 2010, Atwal became the first and only Indian to chalk up a win in the US, taking top spot at the season-ending Wyndham Championship despite having earned his place in the starting line-up via a Monday qualifying event.

At Bermuda, Atwal produced his lowest round in 10 years, just failing to beat his best-ever card of 61, which also came enroute his historic win at the Wyndham Championship, and joked he was happy to be still standing.

“The only thing I could see was hopefully I could get around this place walking because I haven't played much golf,” he said.

“I lost my father about three months ago in India, so I went over there. I just haven't played golf, and forget walking. I played 18 holes at Isleworth last Friday in a golf cart and it's not the same as this place, so I'm really pleased I got the 18 holes in and I'm not worn out as such.”

But Atwal is happy looking forward to his shift to the Seniors circuit.

“I've already entered the finals of Q-School in Phoenix, I'm going to go for that if my body holds up. I'll still have a few starts like the Senior British because of my worldwide wins. But I'm just really looking forward to playing out there with my buddies because I really don't know too many people on this tour anymore.

“There're so many kids and they're like, they see me walking around like, Who's this old dude? And all my friends are out there on the Champions Tour, so I'm really looking forward to that,” said the Orlando-based Atwal.

The last time Atwal featured in the top-10 of any round on the PGA Tour was in 2019 at the 3M Open but he knows there is nothing left for him to prove after a stellar career that has taken him all around the globe.

“The game's just a game. I take it for what it is now, you know, and I have nothing to prove to anybody. I've won out here, I've won on the European Tour, the Asian Tour and I'm looking forward to the 50 Tour next year after March, that will be fun,” he added.

Golf has also brought him many friendships, including a lasting one with Tiger Woods, his neighbour at Isleworth in Orlando for many years. And even as he prepares to – figuratively – walk into the dusk, the 49-year-old knows he has done things for Indian golf no one has quite matched yet.

A true Indian golf legend.

Published on: Nov 13, 2022, 9:31 PM IST
Posted by: Vivek Dubey, Nov 13, 2022, 9:25 PM IST