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Young blood

Hey, swinger

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YOUNG BLOOD: Anirban Lahiri is one of a younger brigade of Indian golfers that are blazing the Asian Tour


Accidents are never pleasant, but nobody can complain about those dictated by destiny. Anirban Lahiri, who made a brilliant debut at the recently-concluded British Open where he finished 31st, even sinking a hole-in-one, was destined to play golf. Like all four-year-olds, Anirban had no idea what golf was but visits to the nearby course in the Roorkee Cantonment with his dad Colonel Tushar Lahiri, a doctor in the Indian Army, was just the start of things to come.

While Anirban grappled with the big clubs and golf balls at the driving range with his tiny hands, his dad, as always, politely dodged requests from friends to take up the sport.

It was during one of these visits that Colonel Lahiri finally relented and picked up the clubs himself, if only for recreation, and his accidental brush with the game proved to be the catalyst for Anirban's love for golf.
"For Anirban and I, golf happened like an accident. We became a part of it just for fun. I never ever imagined that he would play at an international level, win titles and rub shoulders with the game's stalwarts. I took to golf after it became difficult for me to turn down requests from friends.

"While I was learning the nuances of the game, Anirban used to watch me from a distance and picked up bits from here and there, " Lahiri Senior told TOI Crest from Hyderabad.
Two years later, the medico was posted to Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan where golfing facilities were pretty poor, but Anirban's interest in golf had increased manifold and despite the lack of facilities, he used to practice for two-to-three hours daily with the junior set purchased by his dad.

"At the age of six, Anirban had started playing with friends older than him. I used to explain the rules of the clubhouse during play like being silent when somebody took a shot and I taught him the various facets of the game, " said Colonel Lahiri.
Anirban's first big challenge - the Indian Golf Union's (IGU) Junior/Sub-junior Open at Siliguri - came at the age of nine in 1996 and the now Bangalore-based pro came out with flying colours despite the lack of good clubs and proper coaching.
This also prompted the father to buy a new set - one meant for ladies, which are comparatively smaller than the regular ones - for Anirban.

"We had gone to Kolkata during Anirban's winter vacation and around that time one of my friends told me about the Junior-Sub Junior meet in Siliguri and said I should send him. I did so and to my surprise he played better than most kids, " he said.
In 2000, the family moved to Secunderabad, where Anirban was recommended for a week-long coaching camp.

But it was only in 2001 that Tushar realised that his son had outgrown his father's lessons and needed a good coach, who could answer all the queries in Anirban's mind. So they got in touch with Eagleton Golf Resort's Vijay Divecha in Bangalore - guru to many young golfers -and who continues to coach the 25-year-old.

"He used to go to Bangalore once a month, mostly on Friday night. Spend the entire day taking tips from Vijay and implement them here at the Secunderabad facility. "
Three years later in 2004, the ratherreclusive Anirban, who curls up with a murder mystery after a tough day at the course, rose to No. 4 in the junior rankings making the Indian Golf Union sit up and take note of him. They sent him to Thailand for an event.

The very next year he was sent for the Asian Junior Team Championship, where India clinched gold for the first time. Anirban's teammates were two-time Asian Tour champion Gaganjeet Bhullar, Handa Singapore Classic winner Himmat Rai and Ajeetesh Sandhu. The performance helped the team directly qualify for the World Junior Team Championship in Tokyo, where they finished 11th.
By now it was time for Anirban to take a decision on switching to full-time coaching with a single-minded focus on booking a place in the 2006 Doha Asian Games. With his college Bhavan's Vivekananda College in Secunderabad and Divecha in Bangalore, it wasn't easy.

But the ever-smiling lad took it on himself to manage both - studies and his passion. "He hired a flat some 5-6 kilometres away from Eagleton. He bought a scooter which made travelling easier. He would wake up, cook for himself, eat and hop onto the scooter for the course. After toiling the entire day, he would come home at 7 pm. That was his daily routine, " Lahiri Senior said. Alongwith golf, Anirban improved his cooking skills too and can cook some mean mutton and fish now.
With mom Dr Navanita, an English professor at Vivekananda College, attendance might not have been an issue but the Linkin Park fan still needed to devote enough time for a good result. Anirban managed to get 78 per cent in BCom (Hons) from Osmania University.

The following year in 2006, he qualified for the Asian Games and along with Bhullar, Joseph Chakola, Chiragh, the quartet clinched silver for India with a combined score of 849.

Having turned pro in 2007, Lahiri initially struggled but results did come his way in 2009 when he clinched the PGTI Order of Merit with two wins and seven top-10 finishes. Meditation helped calm his nerves and he spends 20 minutes meditating everyday when he's playing a tournament. It took another three years for him to end his wait for a maiden Asian Tour title with the Panasonic Open.

2012 has been a great year for Lahiri Junior so far as he has clinched three top-10 s from 10 events on the Asian Tour besides his SAIL-SBI Open win at the DGC in February. Right now relaxing at home - he just finished watching the much-talked about The Dark Knight Rises - Lahiri is ready for the next of wave of success.

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