Brook's Blog: Lahiri enjoys a 'Major' year

Thu 13 Aug 2015

Brook's Blog: Lahiri enjoys a 'Major' year

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By Juliet Brook
Anirban Lahiri is admiring his morning view at Whistling Straits as the sun rises overlooking Lake Michigan. He is preparing for his fourth and final major of the year at the PGA Championship.
It has been an exciting journey to get him to this point and he will look back and say proudly that he has played in all four Major championships in the same year for the first time.
This feat, which all golfers dream of, came true thanks to two victories at the Maybank Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open earlier this year. This coming after he earned his European Tour card through Qualifying School last year.
Outside the ropes, he married long-time girlfriend Ipsa Jamwal, which gave him the perfect balance in his personal life and career.
Anirban Lahiri of India Anirban Lahiri of India
What has the journey been like? Anirban admits the first hurdle he had to overcome was winning outside of India which he did so in a remarkable way at the 2014 CIMB Niaga Indonesia Masters where he holed a huge curving eagle putt on the last hole.
“It [the win] was about getting over a mental hurdle. I wasn’t lacking in ability, I was good enough to play anywhere in the world but it was about getting over the line which I hadn’t done before. It’s like getting your first ever win- you become so much more relaxed when you know you can do it,” he said.
Anirban then followed up with another win that season at the 2014 Venetian Macau Open, beating Scott Hend of Australia by one shot after treating golf fans to an amazing final 18-hole battle.
He narrowly missed out on winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit in the same year to David Lipsky of the United States but bounced back early this year by winning the Maybank Malaysian Open and the Hero Indian Open, both co-sanctioned with the European Tour, earning him a full European Tour card and a place in the top-50 of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
So what has been in the toolbox for the new face of Indian Golf? Family for starters. “The support of your parents, and further down the line your spouse, is extremely important for anyone with a career in sport”.
Anirban is grateful for the support from his parents in choosing golf as a career. “Sport is not a regular mainstream career option…. so I think it was hard for them.”
Anirban attended an army school because of his father’s job as a doctor with the army (his father is due to retire this November). Did the army Lahiri Trophydiscipline influence his work ethic growing up? “Yes definitely. My father was never over-disciplined, but an army school is a lot more disciplinary than other public schools. We were ‘properly’ turned out and I also became used to meeting older people and calling them ‘sir’.”
Perhaps this is where his maturity and confident attitude and ability to engage with anyone come from. Anirban always offers considered and honest responses delivered with the utmost respect to who he talks to.
Anirban was married in the summer last year (and cut his honeymoon short to compete in The Open in 2014) to Ipsa. “She’s been there from the start and seen my highs and lows; losing my card in 2010 up to now. She’s become an integral part of the team since marriage …. she’s a massive support in many ways”.
Ipsa has been by his side for the majority of this season, but has gone home the last few weeks to “hold the fort” at home in Bangalore. He is grateful that she has taken on a lot of responsibility in their day to day life so he can focus on his game. “It makes a difference and allows more time to practice golf. I can’t see how I would have gone through the last 16 months without having her by my side.”
Rajiv Sharma his caddy from home has also played a role in Anirban’s success over the years. He has been on the bag since 2010 and was by his side in all of his victories.
However, knowing that he would be playing in the United States after breaking inside the top-50 in the world meant that Anirban felt it was important to have a caddy on his bag who knew the courses in the United States better.
Anirban Lahiri of India Anirban Lahiri of India
He hired an American caddy, Laddie Cline, who has caddied for Arjun Atwal so “he understands the Indian way” since the WGC-Cadillac in March. However, Anirban realised that the communication levels between them was not as strong as with Rajiv and he was making mistakes he shouldn’t be making. So after the Irish Open he rekindled the partnership with Rajiv for The Open and would both learn on the job together.
Anirban is an advocate of meditation (the prize fund he was able to donate from winning this week’s PGA Championship Longest Drive Competition, he has given to the Wisconsin branch of the Vipassana Meditation Centre - something he truly believes in) “It’s very important”, he says.
After his wins earlier this year, he reveals he hit a low period when he “was nowhere near his A game”. Meditation helped him to move through those difficult times to a place of playing well again: “It gives you a better perspective on everything. Definitely a life partner for me,” he said.
Computer games are also a useful tool. “It helps get my mind off golf - a distraction - to de-clutter the brain,” Anirban smiles.
It appears it is the ability to be in control of his mind over matter when under pressure, which has been the winning formula for Anirban.
Having finished third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2013 and a close second in 2014, he hopes to finally cross the line this year. “It would mean a lot to me. I grew up watching Arjun and Jyoti taking the game forward in my country.” He is certainly in a much better position this year than he has ever been and is looking forward to coming back to play in some Asian Tour events towards the end of the year.
It’s fair to say Anirban has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders - he is currently India’s highest ranked player, putting the Indian flag on all of the leaderboards in the big tournaments. “It’s important to represent my country in the best light possible.”
Anirban Lahiri of India Anirban Lahiri of India
So what has Anirban learnt about himself over the last 16 months and how does he feel about his first year on the European Tour and of competing in all four Majors? “It has been a huge learning curve. I have become used to playing in the WGCs and Majors. I no longer feel like an outsider. That, for me, is the first step, feeling like I belong. The next step is to keep playing well enough to contend.”
When talking about his performances, Anirban is candid and self-deprecating, “Disappointed. I could have done better at The Open but was disappointed with how I finished. Same case with the WGC Matchplay. I usually play well under pressure so that was a major disappointment for me. I need to put my head down. It’s my responsibility not to squander it and use the opportunity to try and be better.”
At only 28 years old, Anirban has remarkable wisdom. He never expected that the move to Europe and the United States would be achieve desirable results immediately, but knew the next step in his career was about learning to play in the new places, with new conditions, new grasses and to know what it’s like to play amongst the best in the world.
It seems he has already established what he is capable of and is looking to turn that top 50 in the world into a top-20 or even a top-10. With his talent and capacity for understanding his game and himself, there is no doubt that Anirban is on the road to achieving all of this.
“I can play with the big boys,” he says, with an undertone of knowing that he is on the cusp of being one himself.
Ends.