From joining the play-for-pay ranks at a tender age of 16 to becoming the leading Indian golfer in the world, Shubhankar Sharma’s rise up the ranks of professional golf has been nothing short of spectacular.
It has been an amazing journey for Sharma, who joins a successful line of golfers from India after claiming his second victory in two months on the Asian Tour and the European Tour at the co-sanctioned Maybank Championship on Sunday.
Sharma closed with a brilliant 10-under-par 62 to seal the deal at the Saujana Golf and Country Club, taking home his career’s biggest prize purse yet of US$500,000 to move atop the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings and lead the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.
“The last two months have changed my life. I’ve always dreamt of winning and now I’m a two-time winner on the Asian Tour and European Tour,” said Sharma, who rose to a career-high 72nd place on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
The young Indian broke through in sensational style at the Joburg Open last December and earned for himself a coveted spot at The Open at Carnoustie this July where he will be making his Major debut.
“This win is great because it opens so many doors for me. I’m also playing in The Open so I’m excited about that. More and more players are coming out of Asia and India. You’ve had players like Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Anirban Lahiri. Just seeing them do well inspire us.
“Especially me winning now will inspire some kids so we need more idols to inspire more people and give them the confidence that they can do it as well. Asian golf is in the right hands. I am sure you will see more and more Asian players winning in Europe,” Sharma added.
Prior to turning professional, Sharma was the number one junior golfer in his country. He plied his trade on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) after missing the mark in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2014. He claimed his first top-five result on the Asian Tour on home soil that year.
Sharma enjoyed several starts on the region’s premier Tour through his country exemption category in 2015 before earning his Asian Tour card in what was his second attempt at the Qualifying School in 2016.
Sharma kept his card for the 2017 season after finishing 51st on the money list, thanks largely to an impressive top-five finish in the Philippines where he closed with a 62. His career has been on the upswing since, notching four top-10s in 2017 before winning in South Africa.
Another standout coming through the Indian golf ranks is the 25-year-old Khalin Joshi, who enjoyed a solid tied-fifth result at the US$3 million Maybank Championship.
Joshi, who was Sharma’s roommate last week, took home US$92,880 to move to tied-fifth on the Habitat for Humanity Standings where he virtually sealed his Asian Tour card for the 2019 season.
“I kept myself together all week. I didn’t go as low as I could have but there are so many positives from last week. Now I believe I can play better and I know that I can compete at this level. I showed that to everyone and I proved that to myself. It was a good week for me.
“I was struggling to keep my card just last year and last week, I have secured my card already. It changes a lot mentally, now I play to win and not just to play and secure my card. I am so happy for Shubhankar. We are good friends and I learn a lot from him and it motivates me to work harder and be up there with him,” said Joshi.
American Paul Peterson, who claimed his first Asian Tour title in Myanmar a fortnight ago and came in tied-11th in Malaysia, sits in second place on the Merit rankings with earnings of US$135,000.
Berry Henson, also of the United States, continues his remarkable comeback from wrist injury with a third straight top-10 result of the season in Malaysia. He remains in third place on the Habitat for Humanity Standings with a current haul of US$118,112.
The Tour heads down under for the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth this week. The event, tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the European Tour and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia, will take place at the Lake Karrinyup Country Club from February 8 to 11.
Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings – Top-20
Pos Player Order of Merit (US$)
1. Shubhankar SHARMA (IND) 500,000
2. Paul PETERSON (USA) 182,900
3. Berry HENSON (USA) 118,112
4. Shaun NORRIS (RSA) 112,200
5. Khalin JOSHI (IND) 92,880
5. Hideto TANIHARA (JPN) 92,880
7. Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 67,412
8. Danthai BOONMA (THA) 67,400
9. Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 48,391
10. Shiv KAPUR (IND) 44,650
11. Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 43,000
12. Arjun ATWAL (IND) 40,041
13. Gavin GREEN (MAS) 37,712
14. Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 36,850
14. David LIPSKY (USA) 36,850
16. Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) 31,650
17. Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 30,685
18. Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 30,550
19. Scott VINCENT (ZIM) 29,841
20. Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) 28,024