Aaron Rai of England poses with the trophy during day four of the Honma Hong Kong Open at The Hong Kong Golf Club on November 25, 2018 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images,)

Aaron Rai won his first European Tour title at the Hong Kong Open last Sunday, making him the 12th Englishman to win on the European Tour and among the growing number of players of Indian descent making a mark on the game.

However, before Rai was bitten by the golfing bug, he was keen to take up racing as a career.

A BBC archive footage of a five-year-old Rai at his local course after winning his first tournament shows him saying he wanted to become a racing driver.

“I used to love watching [seven-time Formula 1 champion] Michael Schumacher back in the day, and it ran so deep that in junior golf competitions I wore Ferrari T-shirts and jumpers,” the Wolverhampton-born lad told BBC. “That was my thing even from a young age. But since eight or nine, it became very quickly just about golf.”

It was by accident that Rai took up golf.

When he was a toddler, Rai loved playing with his older brother’s hockey sticks and he would often end up with bruises on his head. To avoid this, his mother bought a few plastic golf clubs and that was the first time Rai held a golf club.

There has been no looking back since then.

Rai made his major debut at the 2017 US Open and he says his parents were extremely supportive of his career choice.

Rai said: “That pressure to have certain kinds of career was probably there from the previous generation and certain career paths in our culture are still more walked upon. It’s aspirational to become a lawyer or doctor or dentist and have that kind of status within the family, but it’s beginning to change.

“Sport is a lot bigger than what it was 30 or 40 years ago and when I mean bigger I probably mean in a financial sense.

“It becomes a bit more acceptable to pursue sport as a viable career. You are starting to see some really good Asians come through in certain sports now. Little by little it’s changing and I’m sure it will continue to change in the future.”

In recent times there has been a rise of golfers of Indian descent across the globe and that’s a positive sign that “the perception of golf is changing” and becoming “a lot more acceptable and more inclusive”.

Rai feels 22-year-old Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma is “an amazing player, a great symbol for India and already a superstar”.

“Then you’ve got Julian Suri from America who also has Indian origins from his father’s side and Jack Singh Brar, who is British Asian and has just had an incredible year on the Challenge Tour. He will have a great career ahead of him.

“A lot of guys on the Asian tour who have Indian origin who have been very successful. So it is beginning to change and you are seeing more Indians and British Asians getting into golf and performing very well. It’s great to see more and more guys out on Tour now.”

 

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