by Aman Misra, in Mumbai
Rahil Gangjee is many things. Golfer, family man, and funny man. In his years as a touring professional, he’s carried with him a bag of never-ending stories and anecdotes.
A week after winning for the first time in 14 years on the Asian Tour, your correspondent caught up with Gangjee from Nayoga in Japan.
“Once in an amateur event, a friend was about to hit from a bunker. The referee comes running from behind shouting Penalty! Penalty!
My friend turns around, looks at the Ref and says – Sir, red card or yellow card?”
The affable Calcutta man is never short on laughs. Behind the lightheartedness that he inherited from his father, the late Bashir Gangjee, is a fiery competitor.
Last December, he was in contention for the most part of the Tour Championship on the Indian PGTI.
A less than stellar second shot on the 10th hole saw him slam the club on the ground. Five years removed from his last win anywhere, (Chandigarh 2013, six shot victory) Gangjee finished 3rd.
The beginning of the Asian Tour season saw early withdrawals from tournaments in Singapore and Myanmar, before a missed cut in Malaysia. It was form coupled with a bad stomach that was letting the 39-year-old down.
It was after Malaysia that Rahil found his swing, a few tweaks that he was working on with longtime coach Ajai Gupta came into place. The problem was, that he didn’t have a place to play.
“I went into Indian Open week and played three practice rounds with Arjun (Atwal). I played well and looked forward to making my first check of the year, however, was stuck as first alternate. I really wanted to play, but it took a month more(to play on the Asian Tour).”
It was the PGTI that granted Rahil sponsor spots in Hyderabad and Pune where he finished 17th and 38th respectively. Adds Gangjee “I’m grateful to the tour for those spots. It kept my momentum going. The way I saw it, I had to keep playing to keep my momentum going.”
Retrospecting on his two wins in Asia 14 years apart, Gangjee has a few interesting details. He says “Back in 2004, I wasn’t thinking of winning. This time I was thinking of closing the door. Have been in this position many times before. In 2004, it just kind of happened. Both times though, I wasn’t playing very well coming into the event!”
Rahil also notes that spending time with the next generation has played a sort of ‘assist’ to this win.
“Playing with guys like Shubhankar (Sharma) and Khalin (Joshi) has been fun. There is always competition between us friends. These guys are younger, and apart from looking up to us, they believe that they can win. Just look at them turning professional much earlier nowadays.”
When did he think of dad? “He’s been on my mind for a long time now! I wish he could have seen this, he would have been over the moon. He would have gone straight to Tollygunge Club in Kolkata and told everyone about it!”
So how is newfound membership of the Japan tour treating the not so young man?
“Stepping onto the first tee was amazing. They show the tournament on live TV here, there are a lot of knowledgeable fans who are congratulating me in Japanese and asking for autographs. Major respect. I’ve been coming here since 2004 and have loved it ever since.” signs off Gangjee.