India’s Shubhankar Sharma is delighted to get back into action as he readies himself for the resumption of his season in Europe and chases his first victory since 2018 when he won the Maybank Championship on the Asian Tour.
With the latest announcement that the European Tour season will restart in July, the 2018 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion believes he will be in better form when he tees up for what will be his first professional tournament in four months.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing well again because I didn’t have the best of starts at the start of the year. And the COVID-19 crisis was actually a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to reassess my game and mental state too.
“This has been my longest layoff from golf. Apart from spending quality time with my family which was really important, I took advantage of this period to reflect on all aspects of my game,” said Sharma.
Sharma started the year with a tied-59th finish in Abu Dhabi before missing the cuts in his next four starts on the European Tour. After being left out of the weekend action again in Qatar and with his next event in Kenya cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, he decided to return home early to prepare for the Hero Indian Open.
But the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters would turn out to be his last event before the pandemic brought the sporting world to a halt.
“I honestly didn’t think things would get so bad with the virus until I got to Qatar where we were told Kenya would be cancelled. Then the next thing I knew was the Hero Indian Open was going to be postponed. Everything just happened so fast,” said Sharma.
As most parts of the world then went into lockdowns, Sharma, like many others, found ways to keeping themselves entertained and occupied.
“I tried to learn how to draw but that only lasted for a few days. I tried to learn the Ukulele. My sister was teaching me for a few days. I realised I was not really making too much headway and didn’t want to pursue it that much after that.
Like many other corporate professionals, Sharma continued to ‘work from home’. Until recently, access to gyms, driving ranges and golf courses were still restricted but the creative Indian managed to find ways to keep himself sharp, reviving even fond childhood memories from the past.
“I made a small chipping area in my garden and I practised my chipping where I made a small hole in the ground and tried to hit as many chips close to that as possible.
“That was interesting to me as I have not done that for a very long time. The only time I did it was when I was a kid, so it was fun reliving those days again,” said the 23-year-old.
As India eased some of its lockdown measures, Sharma finally got the chance to head back into doing the things he loved most at the Chandigarh Golf Club with his favourite four-ball partners- Aadil Bedi, Karandeep Kochhar and Ajeetesh Sandhu.
And returning to hit his first shot there when it resumed operations last week was certainly a refreshing breath of fresh air and liberation of sorts for the Sharma.
“It was really refreshing playing my first round of golf last week and I’ve been playing 18 holes every alternate day since then. At first, it was more like going back to the golf course to have fun again. It didn’t matter what kind of scores we shot but we just wanted to enjoy ourselves.
“Then it started getting competitive which is good as we all needed that to tune ourselves back to competition mode again,” said Sharma.
Sharma knows things will be different post-COVID-19 especially with the stringent safety and health protocols but is prepared come what may.
“Definitely there will be new protocol and social distancing measures that we all have to follow and I guess it is what it is. It’s important to try to stay safe at this point in time until the vaccination comes up,” said Sharma.
With a July resumption target in sight, Sharma is determined to keep himself in tip-top shape and remains sanguine he will rediscover that winning form that led him to two Asian Tour victories and the prestigious Order of Merit crown in 2018.
“I’m working towards getting myself back in the best of shape, both physically and mentally. There are still about two more months to go and I know I’ll be totally prepared when I hit my first tee shot in a professional tournament then
“I’m also looking forward to returning and compete on the Asian Tour as it is a great Tour and brought me much success in my career,” said Sharma.