Nothing succeeds like success—ask Shubankha Sharma and he will vouch for it. A week after his epoch making win at the ,Maybank tournament in Malaysia, the Indian has now set his sights on brushing shoulders against the best in the game. For the 21- year old Indian will be making his maiden appearance at the World Golf Championships in Mexico in March. The pin up boy of Indian golf has now sets his sights on excelling at the world stage.
Shubankhar who is the highest ranked Indian in the world with a ranking of 72, has had two great victories in the space of a couple of months, has ensured that he made the cut for the prestigious WGC championships. Not surprisingly, Shubankha was elated at his making the cut for the WGC. “I’m really excited as it was a goal of mine to get into one WGC event this year. I knew I had to be in top-10 in Europe to get it done. I never imagined I would win in Malaysia as I wasn’t in contention going into the last day (he was four back) and there were so many players on the leaderboard. I’m really happy how things have changed for me. I can’t wait to play against the world’s best in Mexico,” said Shubankhar.
There is no denying the fact that Subhnakar’s victory at the Maybank tournament last weekend was a watershed event in his life. For not only did he claim a second European and Asian Tour sanctioned win the brilliant final round of 10 under 62 in Kuala Lumpur ensured that he propelled him to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings and Habitat for Humanity standings on both Tours respectively.
Shubankhar is now eager to follow in the trail of close friends Anirban Lahiri and Arjun Atwal. While Anirban is a two-time Presidents Cup star and a regular on the PGA TOUR, Arjun is India’s first winner on the world’s premier circuit.
“The goal is to win the bigger tournaments and to play on the higher tours. That’s what I’m looking at and I’m very focused about it. Playing on the PGA TOUR has always been my dream. It wasn’t long ago that I would watch PGA TOUR LIVE with my friends, spending some late nights watching the World Golf Championships and the big events in America,” he said.
For the record, Shubankhar ended last season at No. 202 in the Official World Golf Ranking but success in Malaysia has pushed him up to No. 72, making him the highest ranked Indian. Now that he’s in the WGC-Mexico Championship from March 1-4, the young Indian also hopes to qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin later in March which the top-64 golfers in the world as of March 12 will be exempt.
His next goal will be to break into the top-50 which can potentially reward him with invites to the Masters Tournament in April and The Players Championship, which is the PGA TOUR’s flagship tournament, in May. On his part Shubankhar said, “If I can get into the top-50, I’ll get some opportunities in America and I will cherish those opportunities. Things are moving too fast for me, and I am just trying to stay confident and keep playing well. I received a call from Anirban after Malaysia and he’s encouraging me to keep going as I could get into some really big events. It’s still some way to go but I’ll try to ride on the momentum,” he said.
Golf fans beyond Asia would not have heard of Shubankhar s name until his most recent success. As a kid, he was encouraged to learn the game through the influence of Lahiri’s father, who served in the Indian army alongside his dad, Col. Mohan Sharma.
After developing into a leading amateur, Shubankhar won the All-India Amateur title at the age of 16, after which he turned professional. “My dad is a great visionary and he saw my potential. I wasn’t convinced of turning pro at that age and others told me to wait as well. Then one day, dad sat me down for one hour and said we have to get to somewhere in life. It was my dad’s decision which I followed his advice. Everything’s fallen into place thanks to him,” said Sharma.
Many of his peers have marveled at how Shubankar thrives under pressure and keeps a level head which he attributed to meditation taught by his mother, Neena. “It really helps when I am in a tough spot, especially when I am not playing well. I try to control my breathing and stay in the moment as much as possible,” he explained.