Dhruv Sheoran is havin’ a ball

by Aman Misra in Mumbai

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for Dhruv Sheoran. The Delhi-based golfer turned professional and promptly won in his first start at New Delhi. The very next week at Faridabad, he won again. It’s a far cry from where he was at not too long ago.

At home, with the spoils.
Photo courtesy – Dhruv Sheoran Facebook

“I don’t know how to put it.” says Dhruv with a mixture of amusement and disbelief.

“If you ask me, I put away anything technical and just decided to enjoy my game. Things fell into place” he adds.

Growing up as an Army man’s son, he played almost every sport one can think of. Dad played golf for the services while his mother played national level basketball.

By the time he was 16, his heart was firmly set on golf. A year later, he was scratch.

Until he won the Professional Golf Tour of India’s (PGTI) qualifying school in 2017, he had never won as a junior or amateur golfer. Despite earning a full card with his win, he decided not to turn professional.

Later that year, the soft-spoken army boy beat Sri Lanka’s Sisira Kumara on the 36th hole of match play to win the Amateur Championship of Sri Lanka.

Image Courtesy : Daily FT (www.ft.lk)

Previous winners make for a who’s who of South Asian golf, including the great Sri Lankan Nandasena Perera, Pakistan’s Taimur Hussain and India’s Rahil Gangjee among others.

In early 2018, Sheoran once again earned his PGTI card through q-school. Again, he didn’t turn professional because he wanted to wait for the Asian Games August later this year in Jakarta.

The qualifiers were held between ITC Classic and Jaypee Greens. On his own accord, Dhruv hit the ball well all week but couldn’t buy a putt, missing out on the four-man squad.

“All my life I’ve thought of nothing but golf. Not making the squad was disappointing.” reflects Sheoran.

On his way to victory at the Aravalli Golf Club in Faridabad
Photo courtesy – PGTI

In short, he had come to a point where he wasn’t enjoying his golf anymore. Sometime later, he turned professional bringing us back to the last two weeks.

“I had my good friend Divesh Rana on the bag. He’s a top-25 player on the Amateur tour. so he kept telling me to be patient coming down the stretch.” says Sheoran while discussing the various bounces he and his fellow competitors went through on two consecutive Sundays.

When asked, Sheoran emphatically agrees that the PGTI’s Feeder Tour is really tough. “It’s very competitive. People keep attacking flags. There are lots of veterans who have impeccable short games.”

Dhruv has no plans beyond dividing his time between the Feeder and Main Tour as of now. Staying in the present has become his mantra. He says, “I’ve reduced my practice time by half. You’d rather practice smart, than beat balls and exhaust yourself.” notes the young professional.

Winning in his first start as a professional. BSF Golf Club, New Delhi.
Photo Courtesy – PGTI

Working with Anitya Chand and Karan Bindra at the DLF Golf and Country Club, Dhruv likes to think of himself as a feel player. “I’m more Bubba (Watson) than Adam (Scott). You have to feel it to hit it the way you want to.”

Two weeks of professional golf has made the young man a bit wiser. One of his favorite moments in the sport was when Tom Watson came down the stretch at Turnberry, nearly winning the Open Championship at the age of 59.

“It made me realize that you can’t always have happy endings. You just have to keep dreaming every day, all the time.”

He could be right but for now, Dhruv Sheoran is havin’ a ball.

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Changing the game, one stat at a time

by Aman Misra in Mumbai

A year ago, your correspondent met Anirudh at the India Golf Expo in Delhi as he explained his plans to create a device that would combine the best use of technology with ‘numbers’, namely golf stats.

Now, to be honest, I was never one for any additional devices while playing our great game. They tended to be clunky, and as most golfers can probably relate — even a gram of extra weight anywhere in the swing arc would be discernible and unwelcome.

To put it simply, ‘Golfication X’ is a device, that doesn’t only tell you distances, but can also recommend clubs based on those distances, taking into account the millions of other factors you can think of when you step up to the ball.

The idea isn’t new. There have been a bunch of devices that have tried similar stuff over the years. What made this different was the use of AI technology which to our minds has not been implemented fully in any of these devices before.

Anirudh and his team have made effective use of Machine learning, which this correspondent thinks could be the game changer.

In conversation, he takes the analogy of two friends playing together.

Both of you have different ways of playing the game. For instance, on a Par 5, you may go for the green while your friend may not. Based on your preferences and data, the device gives you advice.”

In other words, the algorithm collects data over the course of a season (or seasons), tailoring itself to your game.

This is as opposed to a one-swing-fits-all-model, or a ‘let’s stick to this particular swing theory’ ideal.

Anirudh adds “Machine learning has data sets, which ranks actions higher or lower. This model needs data to give you an outcome, training itself in the process and understanding what you need.”

All this takes places on Golfication X’s cloud servers leaving you to enjoy your game in an uncomplicated fashion.

In theory, the idea sounds workable, it is a question of getting the nuts and bolts together. It wouldn’t be wrong to dub this as golf’s pocket data monster.

The entire system has 14 taggers which you attach to the butt end of each club. That runs a system through to the device giving you the information and so on.
What if I’d like to go in the direction of testing more than 14 clubs? That would cost me more per tag.

Anirudh and his team have raised 89% of their $50,000 goal on a crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, raking up 235 backers.

Production begins once funding ends on the 1st of June in Shenzhen, China. Shipping is due later in August.

Currently, the device is priced at $175 coupled with free shipping. The device will retail at $219+shipping post-August.

Stay tuned for the full-scale review right here by your correspondent.

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Long time coming

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.

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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.

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