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October 20, 1999


The Rediff Sports Interview/ Jeev Milkha Singh

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'I want the top professional golfers to say that there is a good golf player from India and his name is Jeev Milkha Singh'

When Jeev Milkha Singh won the Lexus International golf tournament in Bangkok last week there was jubilation in the home of Milkha Singh, the illustrious 'Flying Sikh', in Chandigarh. The whole family rejoiced and waited anxiously for their hero to return home to carry on with the celebrations.

Jeev arrived this morning. And Onkar Singh got the opportunity to have an exclusive chat with him at his hotel in Delhi.

You won a tournament after a long time....

When I started playing golf I was winning almost every year. Then I hit a bad patch in 1997. I tried hard to win and that in turn told on my game. I should have let the thing to happen instead of making it happen. When I failed to win for one year, I started asking myself 'why am I not winning?' I would keep telling myself I want to win. I always came very close to winning but the victory eluded me all the time. Now I think I have learnt how to win.

So when the victory eventually came your way, and you won this coveted trophy after a long gap, how did it feel?

I felt great. It was a sigh of relief. After losing three play-offs, I was able to win. At last I am able to win. I believe that everything happens for a reason.

Why is it that some Indian golfers are not doing well on the international circuit?

We have lot of talented golf players in the country. They are doing well but, perhaps, since they are not winning we tend to think that they are not playing as well as they should be playing. The reason why they are not doing well is because of exposure. Perhaps they need to go out and play lot more tournaments. They need to play on bigger circuits. And here they would need the support of sponsors. I wish they have more sponsorship money to take care of their expenses.

I am very lucky to have Hero Honda as my sponsors, who back me up all the way to play anywhere in the world. Once that starts happening they would automatically start doing well. Some of those who are doing well in the international golf circuit are Jyoti Randhawa, Arjun Atwal, Gaurav Ghai, Vivek Bhadnari. They are all good golfers but they need to go out to play in competitive circuits.

Are you tense because there is pressure on you, as your father happens to be a big name in sport?

I guess this is true. Because my father did a lot for the country therefore the people expect the same from me. I don't mind the pressure so long as I am playing for my country. I want the world to know that there are Indian golfers around who are also good professional golfers. I want to break the myth that golf can be played only by the rich countries. Unfortunately there is a tendency to look down upon the golfers from the third world countries. We want to tell them that we play good golf. I want the top professional golfers to say that there is a good golf player from India and his name is Jeev Milkha Singh.

Your father believes that it is the pressure of media which prevents you from doing well on the Indian circuit?

The media is the same all over the world. The basic reason why we have pressure on us all the time is because we keep on playing on different courses every week. Every golfer wants to win every week. But this does not happen that way. Nobody can do that. Not even the big names in golf. If you win one tournament in a year, you can say that you have done well. The game is so mental that if you win two tournaments in a year you can say that the year has been good for you.

What do you plan to do next?

My aim is to win on the European circuit next year. I was very close to winning, but some how I could not win. I want to be on the PGA US tour by 2002. I want to win the US Masters, the equivalent of Wimbledon in tennis. This is my favourite tournament.

You have a new coach - Sam Frost, brother of David Frost. Has the new coach helped in improving your game?

Of course, my game has improved quite a lot ever since the new coach has taken over. I have learnt more about my swing and specially under pressure. I think it would take about six to eight months to further consolidate my game. I am in the process of fine tuning my game.

Your father wants you to get married but you are not willing to oblige him. Why?

I respect the feelings of my father and I know he wants me to settle down in life. But I want to do well on the US circuit before I can think in terms of getting married. For me golf comes first and marriage later.

Your father was a great athlete but you chose another profession to excel. Was he disappointed when he learnt that you did not want to be an athlete?

On the contrary he encouraged me to take up the game that I could excel in. I used to be my father's caddy when he was playing golf and that is how I got interested in golf. When my father learnt of my intention to go for golf he told me that I should play the game I want to. But he told me I have to be number one in whatever sport I chose.


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