• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

GOLF

Masters debutants Bhatia and Theegala raise hope for Indian Golf

Indian-American players Akshay Bhatia and Sahith Theegala are all set to make an impact at the Masters, with hopes of igniting a surge in Indian golfing talent.

Hailing from California, Bhatia and Theegala are set to tee off among the esteemed field of 89 players at Augusta National. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

By: Vivek Mishra

Emerging from the ranks of professional golf, Indian-American players Akshay Bhatia and Sahith Theegala are all set to make an impact at the Augusta Masters, with hopes of igniting a surge in Indian golfing talent.

Hailing from California, both in their twenties, Bhatia, fresh off his recent victory at the PGA Texas Open, and Theegala, who clinched his first PGA title last September, are set to tee off among the esteemed field of 89 players at Augusta National this Thursday.

Reflecting on their potential influence on the sport in India, Bhatia said, “I don’t know if I quite realise what Sahith and I can do for golf in India.”

He continued, “I know it’s really special when I have a bunch of fans looking up to me, a bunch of kids coming up to me. I think it’s awesome just being able to grow the game not only in the States but also in India.”

Theegala, too, expressed his excitement at the support from the Indian community, recalling the encouragement he received at the Houston Open last month. “You feel prideful. It’s really cool,” he said. “In Houston, a bunch of young Indian kids came out and followed, and my parents were there encouraging them.”

Bhatia etched his name into golfing history with a thrilling victory at the Valero Texas Open, securing a coveted spot in the Masters.

Bhatia’s triumph was nothing short of sensational as he navigated through a tense playoff against Denny McCarthy at the TPC San Antonio. Despite McCarthy’s late charge, which saw him birdie eight of the last nine holes, Bhatia held his nerve to emerge victorious.

Bhatia injured his left shoulder late in his victory Sunday in San Antonio, popping the shoulder out of place with a vigorous fist pump after sinking a long putt to force a playoff. While it was popped back into place quickly, the shoulder remains a source of concern as he prepares for his Masters debut.

“The shoulder is going to be a work in progress, for sure,” Bhatia said. “I’ve had it happen two, three times. I had a full dislocation playing pickleball a couple years ago and subluxed in Bermuda in 2021.

The 22-year-old American is the first player to reach the finals of the junior Drive, Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National, which he did in the 2014 inaugural edition, and qualify for the Masters.

(AFP)

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