India’s Sharma ready to fight for International team place in Presidents Cup
New Delhi, March 16: India’s newest golf star Shubhankar Sharma plans to fight his way into the 2019 Presidents Cup, on a week when one of his early inspirations, Ernie Els was named captain of the International team.
Sharma, who is sponsored by Take Solutions, DLF, and Indorama Ventures Plc., has taken the golfing world by storm following two recent victories in South Africa and Malaysia which he followed up with an eye-catching tied ninth performance at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. He led a star-laden field in Mexico City after the second and third rounds.
With his world ranking rocketing from a lowly 521st in November to its current 64th position, the talented Sharma has firmly set his eyes on making the International team which will face a Tiger Woods-led United States team at The Royal Melbourne Golf Course in Melbourne, Victoria in December, 2019.
“It would be fantastic if I can make it to the Presidents Cup. It’ll be a dream come true,” said Sharma.
“But in saying that, it’s in 2019, we still have a year and a half to go. I don’t want to get ahead of myself just yet. Anything is possible if I continue to play really well and break into the top-50 in the world.”
After Els and Woods were unveiled as captains of both teams for what promises to be a fantastic showdown in Royal Melbourne next year, Sharma tweeted: “Two of the biggest icons of my golfing life @TigerWoods and @TheBig_Easy will be the central figures of @PresidentsCup 2019. Getting there cannot be more rewarding. I am super excited and will do my best to be on the team, rest assured.”
Ten years ago, Sharma enjoyed his first encounter with Els, a four-time Major champion and 19-time PGA TOUR winner, when the South African legend headlined the Indian Masters.
“I was a kid and went for a golf clinic after one of his rounds. Ernie called out a few kids to hit a few shots and I was one of them. We were using his nine iron and as kids, it was really heavy for us and nobody could really hit it good. I was the last kid and he came over and told me I’ve got to hit the ball in the centre of the clubface and showed me how to hold the club,” recounted Sharma.
“I went on to hit two great shots, which went towards the 100-yard marker. That was one of the best memories I have of Ernie and he was kind enough to give me his card and after signing it, he said I’ll be a great player one day if I kept practicing. And for a kid like me who was only 10 at that time, it just made my day.”
Sharma’s stunning rise in recent months has also caught the attention of PGA TOUR Commissioner, Jay Monahan. During the unveiling of team captains on Tuesday, Monahan remarked: “If you look at what’s happening in the game right now internationally, you got Haotong Li inside the top-40 in the world from China, Shubhankar Sharma from India who has played exceedingly well. We don’t know who is going to come forward between now and then, but it’s likely that stars from new countries are going to come forward with Ernie Els and Tiger Woods leading their respective teams.”
One of the reasons why Sharma has followed the Presidents Cup closely over the past two editions was because his close friend and countryman, Anirban Lahiri featured in the International team.
“Even though we were playing on the Asian Tour during the week of the Presidents Cup, we managed to watch it on TV. It was exciting to see the International team coming close,” said Sharma, who finished tied seventh at the Hero Indian Open last week.
“I think it’ll be a lot of fun, being in that team atmosphere. You normally play for yourself and you try to do your best but it’s a different feeling when you play for a team, just like how it was during our amateur careers when we played for India. I think it will be a lot of fun. The intensity and the passion that the players have, I’m sure it’s a great event. If I can get into the Presidents Cup in 2019, it’ll be really fantastic.”
Sharma will have his first chance at showing off his match play credentials when he makes his debut at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin next week. As the 64th ranked player in the world, he earned the last qualifying place and will be eager to replicate his memorable showing in Mexico City.
The young Indian will also play in the Masters Tournament, the year’s first major, in April after receiving a special exemption from Augusta National and will also feature in several other PGA TOUR tournaments.
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