My ultimate goal is to be a world champion and inspire others – Indian golfer Yuvraj Singh Sandhu

It's fair to say that golf is not the most popular sport in India, but the country has seen its share of talent with the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa, Anirban Lahiri and Shubhankar Sharma to name a few. Often associated as a rich man’s sport, golf news is a niche market which is slowly and steadily generating interest amongst the masses.

In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, golfer Yuvraj Singh Sandhu speaks about his journey as a golfer, the influence of his army background, mental health, training during the pandemic, promoting golf at the grassroots, getting more Indians to win at the highest level and his future goals and aspirations.

Q 1) When were you first introduced to golf and how did your interest in the sport grow?

I was first introduced to golf when my father was posted in Rangapahar in Dimapur. My father was the golf secretary at the Golf Club and a coach from Hyderabad asked me to make a few swings and have fun on the golf course. My mother was very keen for me to start a sport that would make me a better human being rather than an athlete. She introduced me to the sport but both my parents realized that I had a touch for this game and I was lucky enough to have my best friend with me who also played golf. Whenever we wanted to spend time, we would go to the golf course, chipping, putting, hitting some golf balls and walking around the course. Our fathers also used to play together so it was a good bonding experience not just for us but also for our bond with the game as well.

Q 2) As you come from an army background, how much of an influence has it had on your golf career?

The army has always been an influence for me and will always be a major part of my life. It has given me and my family support and options to choose different sports. In India, golf is considered to be a very expensive sport but the army golf courses that I have been to have been so supportive and upcoming that they believe in producing athletes if it’s possible. Other than golf, the army influence gives me that extra edge to not give up and push my limits. My dad is a commando and he has worked very hard in the army. The endurance that he has shown me while I was growing up, the extra edge, physical and mental fitness, never giving up, always being on top, working hard and paving my way through irrespective of whether I’m talented or gifted are qualities that have come from the army. I’m really grateful to the armed forces for this.

Q 3) Golf as a sport demands great mental strength. What do you do to keep yourself mentally positive ahead of big tournaments? Tell us about your training regime?

Golf is a game which is a game played between the five inches of the ears. It’s very important to stay sane, calm and unlike other outdoor athletes that can be aggressive, a golfer can be aggressive in training or practice but not while playing a tournament. You need to be calm and hold your nerves under pressure and it’s something that changes the way you look at golf. I have started to meditate to maintain my mental capability to perform at the highest levels. Initially I didn’t enjoy it because I felt it was a pointless activity, but knowing yourself mentally and having the ability to control your thoughts consciously or subconsciously to channel out other things and focus is a very important quality. I do take care of my mental health as my sister is practicing clinical psychotherapy and she helps me a lot with my mental health, issues related to anxiety and performance pressures. As an athlete, I consider it to be normal to be a little anxious, get those butterflies before a big or small event but controlling those butterflies is something in our control. I try my best to stay calm, in control and keep learning from others about how they keep their composure. I have mentors such as Jeev Milkha Singh sir who have taught me how to control myself on the golf course, going about entering a tournament and staying in the present. Right now, there are no upcoming tournaments until August, so it’s my off season. I have a schedule, workout and practice regime designed by my trainer, golf coach and physiotherapist and I try to stick to it as much as possible and also push myself to get better, stronger and a better version of myself overall.

golf My ultimate goal is to be a world champion and inspire others - Indian golfer Yuvraj Singh Sandhu

Q 4) You won your maiden title in the PGTI Feeder Tour Event at Karnal in 2019, tell us about your experience?

Karnal was a memorable win and I never felt out of place when I entered that week, even though I was a bit nervous towards the end. I felt everything was under control which is something that can bring a win for a golfer. That was the first tournament where I played in an absolutely different golf course because it was the first time I played in Karnal and I just wanted to have fun. When I got back home, everyone was very happy and satisfied with the way I played the tournament and for getting my first win as a professional golfer. That one win did give me a boost but I would like to win back to back more often and I came back with the feeling that I need to work much harder.

Q 5) How challenging was it to continue training in the ongoing pandemic situation? What did you do to keep yourself in good shape?

These are really testing times. I feel the only way to get through this is to spread positivity and appreciate what you have. I have been trying to stay grateful for everything I have everyday. In December, I  started a 'Gratitude Journal' which is actually helping me a lot. The way I look at life now and how fortunate I am to have this life to be able to stay inside my house and train at the same time. I was lucky that I had a few of my equipment in place just before the lockdown happened. I also have a mat which takes care of one part of my game. Just to keep myself a little more distracted from the fact that the tournaments are not taking place, I have started learning to play guitar which is one thing that is exciting right now. I have given more time to connect with my friends and family at this time as it's very very important to keep checking on your loved ones and that's the only way to spread positivity around the globe. Everyday I wake up with a feeling that if I can make somebody laugh or smile today, that will actually see me through the day. That's what's keeping me going through this lockdown. I'm sure we all will come out of this COVID lockdown much smarter, brighter and we all will be more hunger driven for our professional lives as that's also something very important. I know it's a very tough time but you have to see the best and you have to just accept what it is and have some faith and belief in God.

Q 6) What do you think India needs to do in order to get more participation in the sport from grassroot levels?

I feel that schools are very much responsible as to how a child sees the world. In our society, I feel that the people are told why don't you just get a degree first or why don't you become a doctor, engineer or join armed forces or fly abroad and get a job there. Nobody tells you that you might actually be the one to take the tricolor to the Olympics or to the Asian games or be a World Champion. People always find a way to make an excuse like I don't know if you are going to be a world champion but nobody can take education away from you. I agree with that, but I feel that if you don't try in the very first place and don't put yourself out there just to start the journey of being a world champion or being somebody who wants to be an athlete. How can you just sit back and say education is something that you should do? I think we need to be encouraging about junior golf and sub junior golf because I feel golf is a passion driven game. If somebody has the passion, it's very difficult to just leave the sport. I believe a lot of people need to invest in junior, sub junior levels and a lot of coaches also need to invest their time. A lot of schools should introduce golf and while that is happening, I think we should encourage juniors to play, encourage sub juniors, amateurs and girls just to go out there and have fun while playing the sport because you just experience a different part of yourself when you are there on the golf course just practising. It's like a different zone altogether. Grassroot levels will be just from schools or probably getting much experienced players to interact with these junior players or children in schools will help. Interactions with hall of fame players like Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh, Shiv Kapur, Ajeetesh Sandhu. These players should have an interaction platform which is lacking in our society. People see it as okay, he is an athlete but how many athletes become the top five or top ten. They tried, they became champions. You need to try first to become a top five or top ten. You can't just sit back and say oh no we will educate our child. Hence I feel it's more to do with the whole society thinking that athletics and a sportsmen's life is not bad at all. It's actually a life where a child once he or she becomes a major gets to know the struggles of their lives. They actually get to know what life is. When they have a limited amount of money in their account they need to train and perform with that  which is what is learning to live a life. Therefore, I think the introduction of sports needs to be more, visibility of the sport needs to be more. More and more people should talk about golf in India. People should be encouraged when they are practising on public golf courses or in stadiums. There are a few stadiums that have made a range within the stadium premises. Siri Fort has done a great job by giving a whole range inside the stadium. These things need to be encouraged by our society, government, elderly and by the people who can actually make a difference.

golf03 My ultimate goal is to be a world champion and inspire others - Indian golfer Yuvraj Singh Sandhu

Q 7) What would it take for Indians to win the PGA Tour, Green Jackets and medals at the Olympics and Asian Games?

I think the medals can come only with quality practice. The quality of golf courses in India needs to be much better and they need to be equalised with the world golf course such as golf courses that host PGA tour events, European tour events. I feel India is lacking there. There are a lot of management issues in the golf club because people are doing it just for the sake of doing it. They don't want players to come out. If we have good quality practise sessions, quality coaches, in fact we do have really good coaches and trainers in India but the whole process of adaptation from the golf courses in India to the golf course in Europe or America is a big difference that an athlete has to travel and play in totally different conditions. I feel that when we start working on the conditions of the golf courses and start bringing up their quality I think we could give ourselves a very good chance and we could actually bag a lot of medals at the Olympics and the Asian games.

Q 8) As a golfer, who did you look up to in your growing years? What are your future goals and ambitions and how do you plan to achieve them?

As a kid I looked up to the one and only Tiger Woods. He has inspired me and is still inspiring me. The way he looks at the game, the way his mental strength is, the never give up mentality, he is an army kid, I'm an army kid. He was never the biggest on the field, he was never the strongest on the field but he worked for it and I relate to him personally because I feel I am on the same path and I feel what Tiger has done for the sport is just inexpressible. It's my goal to try and bring a change in the sport. That would be the ultimate goal of a golfer. If I can bring a change in the sport or I can motivate somebody or inspire the children in my city or my country just to think that one day they can become like Yuvraj Singh Sandhu or become a golfer of that level. I feel that will be my ultimate achievement and goal if I look back and see that I have inspired and motivated people just to be a better athlete and to be a world champion. To achieve that, I will try to work really really hard and play as many tournaments as I can. I'm planning to go to Europe in January. The Indian tour will resume in August and will go on till December but there's going to be a break from March. Hence, from January to March I'm going to Europe to put myself out there and actually test myself with the best players in the world. I'm training really hard and really smart, I have the best team and I feel I should be there sometime soon.


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