My aim is to improve mental toughness by end of 2018: Golfer SSP Chawrasia

The year 2017 has been “special” for seasoned golfer S.S.P. Chawrasia. But by the end of next year, Chawrasia, who was honoured with the Arjuna Award recently, wants to be mentally tougher so that he can win on European soil, a front which is still unconquered.

“The year 2017 has been my best year so far. I have won the Indian Open. My dream came true as I also won the Arjuna Award,” Chawrasia, 39, told IANS in an interview at his residence in south Kolkata.

In March, Chawrasia clinched his fourth European Tour title by winning the Indian Open for the second successive year with a seven-shot victory over Malaysia’s Gavin Green.

For his exploits over a span of almost two decades, the second ranked on the Asian Tour Order of Merit player — who has so far won six international titles, including four on the European Tour — was honoured with the prestigious Arjuna Award on August 29 in New Delhi.

“When I started playing, S.K. Jamshed Ali, who won the Arjuna award in 1975, used to inspire me a lot. I wanted to win the award like him. I was very young and I used to feel I want this prize some day,” Chawrasia said looking at the coveted piece of silverware tucked in between his numerous trophies.

“I have been trying for the Arjuna award since 2008,” he said. In that year, Chawrasia created European Tour history by becoming the first player to win on his maiden appearance as an Affiliate Member when he triumphed on home soil at the inaugural EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters at Delhi Golf Club.

He also became the third Indian golfer to win a European Tour event.

“It took nine long years for me to get the prize, but better late than never they say. I am very happy. So 2017 can be called my most special year yet,” said Chawrasia, who took to golf courtesy his father, who was a greenkeeper at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).

Chawrasia’s next aim is to win on European soil and for that he feels mental strength is what he needs.

“I am playing a lot in Europe these days. In Asia, I have already won. Winning the PGA tour is every golfer’s dream. But there is no point going there without being ready.

“If I decide to go there because I have money, I don’t think it’s right. I am not ready yet for the PGA tour. I want to take one step at a time,” said Chawrasia, whose role model is Jeev Milkha Singh.

“At this level, it’s completely a mind game. Skill-set is more or less the same for everyone. The main thing is in the mind when we are under pressure.

“Seventy per cent game in golf is in the mind. Take any golfer, the skill part after one level is the same. It is all in the mind. My goal in 2018 is to improve mentally.”

The golfer, who specialises in the short game, said it took him a long time to realise that beyond practice, it is mental toughness that separates the best from the rest.

“It took me a long time to realise that I have to practise a lot in my mind — overcoming my fears and performing in pressure situations,” he said.

“For the last three years, I am doing Yog nidra. For the last two-and-a-half-years I was stuck at one level. I did not know that it had different levels.

“Then a friend’s wife, who has done a course in the Bihar School of Yoga for four months, helped me out. She told me that for the last two-and-a-half-years I was at the beginner’s level and have not improved. It is helping on the golf course.”

(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])

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