Gaurav Ghei, First Indian to Play a Golf Major, Hails Anirban Lahiri

Updated: 20 August 2015 16:14 IST

We trace the journey from India having an occasional golfer qualify for a Major to a time when Indians are now not only a regular feature but are also contending in Majors. We spoke to three-time winner on the Asian Tour Gaurav Ghei who was the first Indian to participate in a Major in 1997.

Gaurav Ghei, First Indian to Play a Golf Major, Hails Anirban Lahiri
File photo of Gaurav Ghei. © AFP

Anirban Lahiri created history for Indian golf on Sunday, finishing tied 5th at the PGA Championship. The Bangalore golfer's 5th place finish is the best performance by an Indian golfer at a Major, eclipsing Jeev Milkha Singh's Tied 9th finish at the PGA Championship in 2008.(Anirban Back in Top-40)

Anirban in fact played all four Majors this year and his stint at the PGA capped a dream year that saw him win 2 European Tour events. We spoke to Gaurav Ghei, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour and the 1st Indian to participate in a Major in 1997 about the magnitude of Anirban's achievement and what this means for Indian golf.(Lahiri Tied 5th)

Disha Chopra: For those who do not understand what Anirban's 5th place finish means, what would you compare it to? An Indian reaching the finals of a Grand Slam may be?(New High for Lahiri)

Gaurav Ghei: For a cricket crazy nation, just the atmosphere of being at a Major is like being in the middle of Eden Gardens at an India-Pakistan World Cup final. It's very electric and to perform with the best players in the world is something which is very creditable. The first time that you get there, you are very overwhelmed, it's literally like out of a body experience. This is Anirban's 6th Major in a row; his credentials on the greens have never been in doubt but the big change is that he's now not just comfortable but he believes he belongs there.

Look at his season - winning two European tour events, a 5th place at the European Masters. Game wise, Anirban is at the top-most level right now but what surprised me is his temperament. He had couple of bad breaks but he played with the calmness around him which was commendable. I don't think it is going to be long before actually knocking right at that door of a Major win.('World Will Now Notice Indian Golf')

Disha Chopra: Gaurav, you're of the same vintage as a Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Daniel Chopra and you all have helped made Indian professional golf what it is today. Is the current generation of Indian golfers bred to be world beaters?(Watch: Lahiri's Exclusive to NDTV)

Gaurav Ghei: When I turned professional, there was not much of Tour to look at. We could hardly make ends meet playing on the Indian Tour. We knew that we needed to either well on the Asian Tour or chuck up the game in couple of years. Today kids who are coming up they have so much exposure because of TV, internet and they've learnt from guys like us who've made a few mistakes along the way.

Disha Chopra: What stands out about Anirban Lahiri off the greens?(Lahiri Praised by Asian Tour)

Gaurav Ghei: Anirban is a great ambassador of the game and a great model for youngsters in India to look at because he plays in India, he has never been to college in America, he has got an Indian coach since he stated playing competitive golf and he is out there in the World's top 50 or 40 spots, winning European tour events. That's the best thing for young golfers to learn from Anirban, that if he can do it so can they.(Lahiri's PGA Showing Reinforces Asian Tour's Status as a World Power)

When we guys started out there was not that much information, somewhere we felt that one needed to get a foreign coach to get to the next level. Now all the kids know what ever you are born with whatever your natural swing is, you just got to keep repeating that and you don't need a prefect swing to get to the next level Anirban is a gifted players and he's proved that it's not the swing that cracks it's the player that cracks. I think, he's going to go on for a long time and give all the Indian golf fans lot of joy.

Disha Chopra: How have things changed for Indian golfers at the Majors since 1997, the year you played the British Open and became the 1st Indian to play in a Major?

Gaurav Ghei: There was not much exposure for big ticket events when I qualified for the British Open. It was a local qualifying, and there were no international qualifying events. Now you can qualify for a Major 6 months before the event and even practice there and get acclimatized. I remember, I qualified on Monday evening and Thursday morning I was at looking at 10000 people staring down at the first hole. My only thought was that I better not hit any one of them! It was a rarity for a Indian to play a Major then but today we expect Indians to be there, whether it's the Masters, British open, US open or the PGA Championship.

Disha Chopra: A quick word on your predictions for Anirban. Will he be the first major winner from India?

Gaurav Ghei: I think it's unfair to say that he is definitely going to win a Major but he can do it now as we can all see. I wish him all the best; He's a focussed young guy and works very hard. I wish he has a great ride hopefully win a medal for India at Olympics.

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