Kolkata: Udayan Mane, the gentle giant who became the second Indian golfer after Anirban Lahiri to qualify for Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, plans to capitalise on the ‘‘good vibes’’ that he has with Japan to give off his best in the greatest show on earth.
The big-built Udayan, a good friend of Lahiri as both learnt the ropes together as beginners in Bengaluru, is currently the second-highest ranked Indian at 356 and made the cut for his maiden Olympics after Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo announced his withdrawal in end-June. Mane qualified on the basis of being ‘first reserve’ against Grillo’s name but the confirmation only came through on Tuesday on the International Golf Federation’s (IGF) website with the 30-year-old being placed No. 60 on the Olympic Golf Rankings list (Lahiri being No.59).
Speaking to the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI), Mane said: “I’m really excited about getting the opportunity to represent India at the Olympics. In fact, I’m still pinching myself as it hasn’t yet sunk in fully. With a great 2020-21 season on the PGTI, I felt that I had almost sealed my qualification for the Olympics but the lockdown in India this year put some doubts in my mind whether I could actually make the cut for Tokyo.
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‘‘The only Tours which have recently been operational are the PGA Tour and European Tour and I thought the players from those Tours had a real chance of pushing through and qualifying for the Olympics.”
With the PGTI becoming a part of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) system in 2019, players such as Mane have reaped the benefits. His strong performances over the last two PGTI seasons, including two wins in 2019 and three wins in 2020-21, earned him valuable OWGR points that finally helped him qualify for the Olympics.
The countdown to the Games has started for Mane,30, as he said: “I’m looking forward to joining Anirban in the Indian team at Tokyo. He’s not only a good friend but also a great golfer and a role model and more than that he’s an amazing human being. We’ve been in contact with each other now over the phone more often because ever since he found out about my qualification he’s also been quite excited.”
Now a resident of Pune, Mane believes he has good vibes in Japan for multiple reasons. “In Japan, it’s expected to be the beginning of summer so I guess it will be cool in the mornings and evenings and a little warm in the afternoons. I have played in Japan before during the 2014 Eisenhower Trophy when I shot a 14-under for the week and finished 13th at the event. Until 2018, that was the best finish and score by an Indian at the event - so you can say Japan has been nice to me on the only occasion I’ve been there.
“Interestingly, my mother has visited Japan on numerous occasions because she worked for a medical company which had its headquarters there. So I know I have good vibes in Japan like my father said and comforted me before I left for Japan for the first time,’’ he added.
“As far as preparation for the playing conditions in Japan is concerned, I’ll only be able to figure out the conditions after I get there. I don’t know how far or short the ball may go with each club compared to my standard yardages here in India. What I have done is hit balls off bare lies so that my striking is a little more in tune, I’m a little more precise and I’m ready for everything. The routine is a lot more structured as I know what I’m doing throughout the day or for each day of the week and it’s been rigorous,’’ he added.