November 13, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR -- Gaganjeet Bhullar and Anirban Lahiri believe their debut appearance at next week’s ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf is a massive boost for the rise of a new generation of Indian golf stars.
Bhullar and Lahiri plan to bring glory to their nation with a strong showing at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Australia from Nov. 21-24 as they vie for a lucrative prize pot of US$8 million in the 60-man field.
“The next generation of Indian golfers is taking over,” Bhullar said. “I guess we have to take up the responsibility. Times have changed, a lot of youngsters are coming up and playing well on the Asian Tour. I guess it shows the gap has narrowed between the younger generation and the veterans like Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal,” he added.
Lahiri said: “Both Gaganjeet and I have stepped our games up in the last 24 months and it is great that we get rewarded by playing in the World Cup.”
The 25-year-old Bhullar and close friend Lahiri, who is a year older, have been pushing each other up the upper echelons of the Asian Tour. They initially teamed up as amateurs to help India win the silver medal at the Asian Games in 2006 and in the past four seasons as pros, they have won a combined seven Asian Tour titles to cement their star status on the region’s premier Tour.
In addition, Lahiri wants to put on a top show at Royal Melbourne to show that Indian golf is in good hands from the days when Singh, Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa brought glory by capturing the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit titles on four occasions.
“The World Cup of Golf is something that I’m looking forward to. A couple of years ago, Gaganjeet and I had a great chance at the qualifying event but we missed out. That was a heart break, so it will be nice to finally get to play,” said Lahiri, who is ranked fourth on the Asian Tour following one victory and three runner-up finishes.
Bhullar is equally fired up to represent his nation. “This is going to be my first World Cup and I’m excited. It will be a great experience for me. Golf is an individual sport so the World Cup has a different charm in it when you get the opportunity to represent your country,” he said.
Both Lahiri and Bhullar will enjoy a good warm up at Royal Melbourne as they will compete in the Talisker Masters this week at the same venue.
Lahiri said qualifying for the World Cup would also boost their hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.
“That’s we what play for. When I played as an amateur, I played for India in many events. As a professional, you want to keep doing it and winning medals and honor for your country. It means a lot more when you are doing something more than winning titles for yourself,” said Lahiri, who finished tied second at the Hero Indian Open last weekend.
India’s best showing in the World Cup in recent years was a ninth-place finish by Atwal and Randhawa in 2005. This year’s ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf will offer US$7 million for the individual category and US$1 million for teams who are eligible with two players represented at the event.
“The new format is a good preparation for the 2016 Olympics. It gives everybody a good idea on how to cope with the format. It is a very good format. The most of us will definitely welcome this format,” Bhullar said.
“It is a very exciting moment in my career. Hopefully my family and some of my relatives in Australia will follow me on the golf course. It is always a great and different feeling when you are representing your country.”
Other Asian players who have qualified for the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf through the Official World Golf Ranking are Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, China’s Wu Ashun and Liang Wen-chong, Korea’s K.J. Choi and Bae Sang-moon, Filipinos Angelo Que and Antonio Lascuna, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Hideto Tanihara and Bangladeshi Siddikur.
Tickets to witness the ISPS HANDA World Cup are on sale now from www.ticketmaster.com.au.