Indian golf welcomed a new star in 20-year-old Viraj Madappa, who showed maturity and calmness beyond his years to win the TAKE Solutions Masters in front of scores of adoring teen fans at the KGA. In the process, Madappa, who is three months short of his 21st birthday on November 9, became the youngest Indian to win on the Asian Tour. The earlier record was held by Gaganjeet Bhullar, who won the Indonesia Invitational, when he was 21 years and three months, while Shubhankar Sharma won Joburg Open when he was 21 years and five months old.
The win was a massive boost for Indian golf as it comes a week after Gaganjeet Bhullar’s triumph at the Fiji International, co-sanctioned by Asian and European Tours. Also, last week in Bengaluru, Rahil Gangjee won the Louis Philippe Cup on the Asian Development Tour.
Madappa, a Coorgi by birth, lived and grew up in Kolkata. But last year he shifted to Bengaluru to be with coach Tarun Sardesai. So, it was a homecoming of sorts for Madappa.
He carded four-under 67 to get to 16-under, while four players, Zimbabwean Scott Vincent (68), Argentine Miguel Carballo (71) and the Thai duo Suradit Yongcharenchai (66) and Danthai Boonma (70) shared the second place.
SSP Chawrasia (70) briefly captured the lead on Sunday, finishing Tied-6th alongside Honey Baisoya (70) and local hope, Khalin Joshi (72). Joshi had a troublesome front nine, with two bogeys and a double.
Madappa turned professional at the start of 2017 and this is his first win as a pro. He said he had started to get a positive feeling from the 15th itself even though he was still one shot behind.
He revealed, “Last night I thought about a win, the winning putt and so much else, so I was kind of nervous,” he said. “Then, to get my first pro win on the Asian Tour is a dream come true. It is yet to sink in.”
He added, “It’s incredible really. My family has been very supportive. My mum is here with me today. It was great to see all the kids from the academy out here today. They were all like between 6 to 15 years old. They were probably the loudest in the crowd. You could tell it was them in the crowd.”
“I want to thank all the kids, my parents and my coach, Tarun Sardesai, with whom I have been working for some time now. It was so good to see all the youngsters from the Academy (Tarun Sardesai Academy) here and cheering for me.”
On his play and the energy he could feel, he said, “I was riding off their energy. Winning the tournament did cross my mind when I birdied the 16th hole but I was just trying to stay in the present and hit every shot I could the right way. I think I did a good job there. I didn’t back off from the situation, even though I had the opportunity to lay up on 18th hole. I decided to go for the green and I’m proud that I made that decision.”
As for what he does next, he said, “I am going back home to Kolkata to celebrate with my family tonight and spend some time at home. I wasn’t looking at the leaderboard on the 18th. I only looked at it before I chipped. I was aggressive with that chip. I knew I had a two-shot lead then but I felt relieved after chipping it back to the green.”