Dubai: Mohan Lal Sharma’s prophetic words on the sidelines of last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic resounded even more after his son Shubhankar Sharma won his second European Tour event of the season in Malaysia on Sunday.
“He will be world No. 1 one day,” Sharma senior told Gulf News on the sidelines of last week’s event in Dubai, where son Shubhankar finished tied for 61.
“Call it a hunch, an instinct, a feeling; I see, understand and study a lot of golf, so that’s why I know.
“I mean it with all humility,” he later semi-retracted. “Don’t make it a big statement. I’m just saying it in the spirit of the game, he will be the best player one day, World No. 1 or 100 is a separate matter, but he will be the best player in the world and it could be at any time.”
The 21-year-old from Chandigarh, India — the same home city as four-time European Tour winner Jeev Milkha Singh — certainly lived up to his father’s billing when he came from four strokes behind to win the Maybank Championship by two shots in Malaysia on Sunday.
Shubhankar shot 10 birdies in a closing round of 10-under-par 62 to reach 21 under for the tournament, finishing ahead of joint overnight leader Jorge Campillo, who carded a 68.
This is his second European Tour win of the season after winning the Joburg Open in South Africa in December, and it sees him jump to the top of the Race to Dubai rankings, just eight tournaments into the new campaign.
“The last two months have changed my life,” said Shubhankar, whose win on the co-sanctioned Joburg Open saw him earn his card on this year’s European Tour for the first time since turning professional in 2013.
“I’ve been a member on the Asian Tour for a while now and I will continue to be a member on the Asian Tour. I’ve always dreamt of winning and now I’m a two-time winner on the Asian Tour and European Tour,” he added of his latest success in another co-sanctioned event in Malaysia.
“I played pretty solid and it wasn’t easy because it was windy. I kept pushing the whole day. I knew I had to make a lot of birdies to catch the leaders. I made a lot of birdies on the front nine and just continued on the back.”
Campillo went two clear at the top with an eagle on the first but Sharma pulled back with four straight birdies from the fourth. He then shot five birdies on the back nine to edge ahead of Campillo, and hung on for the victory.
Shubhankar’s dad, a former Indian Army Colonel, quit the forces six years ago to help his son pursue golf after his army colleague Tushar Lahiri, the father of two-time European Tour winner Anirban Lahiri, spotted his talent.
“He started at seven and hasn’t put the club down after that, he got hooked and married to the game, his temperament is in sync, he’s calm, composed, humble and down to earth, and thinks golf is bigger than him, therefore he is always improving,” said Mohan Lal.
“This is the early part of the season, so it’s no indicator, it means nothing,” Sharma senior said in Dubai, speaking between his son’s two wins. “What matters is how well he plays and stands up to the competition week-after-week. In the long run that is what matters, and he will, he will stand up.
“It could be anytime. He won in a world class field in Johannesburg when he was alone with none of us around, so he has the heart in his game to win anywhere. He can win this week or next, anywhere, there’s nothing left to do in his game, so your guess is as good as mine,” Mohan Lal said before the Malaysia triumph.
Winning big on Tour will get Shubhankar invites to Majors, where he is already set to play in the Open Championship in July.
“Hopefully, it will be a big year,” said Shubhankar.
“There’s a lot to learn from playing in Europe and getting used to different conditions and courses, against better players. I feel my game is there and I’m playing good but it’s just about being on tour more, I still feel new, but once I get totally used to it, I think it will be a great year. I’m already in the Race to Dubai top 10, but if I continue to play the way I am, I’ll finish pretty high.”
And of his first Major, he added: “It will be a good experience, I’ve never played links, but I’ll play in Ireland the week before so it will be good practice.
“If I stick to routine and do my best anything is possible. Tournaments are four days and anytime momentum can change, so you just have to stay in it, get off to a good start and above all have fun, it’s my birthday that week, so I just want to do my best.
“I don’t see why me, or any other Indian, can’t win a Major,” he added. “With so many coming through and contending, I think once we have confidence and more star players, I don’t see why we can’t see an Indian Major champion in 7-10 years.”