New Delhi: Fresh from his first Asian Tour title of year, Anirban Lahiri and his compatriot Shiv Kapur believe the future of Indian golf is in safe hands with the emergence of promising youngsters Rashid Khan and Khalin Joshi. (File photo: Rashid Khan)
Khan and Joshi put on solid performances at the SAIL-SBI Open which earned praises from Lahiri, who successfully defended his title on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Khan pushed Lahiri to the limit at the Delhi Golf Club but lost in the first extra hole.
Despite the defeat, Khan still held his head high with his best result on the Asian Tour which propelled him to fourth place on the Order of Merit with winnings of USD 33,000.
"I'm happy with how I played. I've learned a lot of things. I've played with a lot of top players and I'm learning. That's what I'm doing and I know what I have to do now," said Khan.
Joshi, India's number one amateur last year, roared into a share of the halfway lead last week but his title hopes faded with a final round 76.
He showed composure and talent despite his tender age of 21 and is expected to bounce back and contend regularly.
"I'm amazed at the way the young guys are playing. It's a big stage. My first few years on the Asian Tour, I struggled. The guts and ability that the young guys like Rashid and Khalin are showing, it's phenomenal," said Lahiri.
"I wasn't that good when I was their age. They are five years younger than me and I feel like an old man. It's fantastic for Indian golf. I think it's great," he added. Kapur, a winner on the Asian Tour, shared the same sentiments as Lahiri.
"Rashid played exceptional. He's got an old head on a young shoulder. He showed no signs of pressure and putted beautifully all day. Every time he sets up a putt, he looked like he was going to hole it."
Khan and Joshi missed the grade at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in Thailand earlier this year but they recovered superbly at the SAIL-SBI Open and are expected to follow in the footsteps of Gaganjeet Bhullar, Lahiri and Himmat Rai, who share a combined total of seven Asian Tour victories.
"Look at Gaganjeet, Himmat and Anirban, who are winning already. We have a huge pool of players with Khalin also contending. Thailand and India are the two power houses of golf in Asia. Rashid is from here and I've seen him grow. It's heartening to see. The sky's the limit for him," said Kapur.
The Indian swing of the Asian Tour will continue with the euro 1.8 million (approximately USD 2.3 million) Avantha Masters, tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), starting Thursday.
Meanwhile, the USD 300,000 Panasonic Open India will be staged from April 4 to 7 at the Delhi Golf Club where Khan and Joshi will be hoping to shine again on the region's premier Tour, which is celebrating its 10th season this year.