Making the most out of adversity has become a life-long habit for India’s Shubham Jaglan. Why should his debut appearance at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) be any different?
The 17-year-old, a freshman at the University of South Florida this year and winner of the Junior World in San Diego, U.S. Kids Golf World Championships in Pinehurst, N.C., and the European Championships in Scotland, thought he had planned everything to perfection when he reached Dubai on Monday night.
It was late compared to other players in the field, but it gave him time to play a qualifying round of a collegiate event in Bahamas. He thought he would be able to get a good practice round at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club course on Tuesday.
That plan fell apart faster than a house of cards. Jaglan reached the hotel at 23:00 local time, thus missing the mandatory pre-championship COVID-19 test that night. By the time he got his results back on Tuesday evening, there was no time left for any practice.
Reconnaissance of the golf course is almost mandatory for players at this elite level. And yet, Jaglan took the blow on the chin with a smile and showed up at the course.
After all, he is a guy who coached himself watching YouTube and became good enough to be a world champion in several age categories. He is the one who decided to create his own driving range in a farm when it was not possible to practice for several months due to COVID-19 restrictions. He is the one who decided to break the mold in his village of Israna and become a golfer when his whole family and the community was besotted by wrestling.
TED Talk Star
It’s an ethos Jaglan referred to in his TedTalk, and one he completely believes in – don’t let the wind determine your course.
As things stand, Jaglan shot a one-under-par 70 in his first round playing the golf course blind, and then bettered it by two shots in Thursday’s second round to be T-12 at four under par.
“This is the first time I have played a tournament without a single practice round. I think I have done it once before, but that was at Delhi Golf Club, which is my home course,” said Jaglan.
“It was a good experience. Going into the first round, the thing I struggled most was my tee shots. I didn’t know what my starting line was, but that sort of helped me be more engaged and I felt very present throughout the whole round because I didn’t really have another option.”
If there were any butterflies in his stomach hitting his opening tee shot, Jaglan hid them well.
“I mean, it’s kind of counterintuitive, but I didn’t really feel nervous coming into the tournament. I worked on changing my mindset a little bit in terms of how I approach tournaments and how I approach shots, and the objective never really changes. If I’m playing a practice round, or if it’s the first time playing the Asia-Pacific, I only strive to hit the best shot I can. That is something I can go back to every time and that’s what I did on my first shot. I was nervous, but I was expecting that,” said Jaglan, who has been supported in India by the Golf Foundation from the very beginning of his golf journey.
Apart from the occasional mistake of choosing the wrong club off the tee, Jaglan said his biggest problem was which clubs to take out of his bag.
Club Choice Key
“I hit a wrong club pretty early, on the second hole. I hit a 3-wood and I went into the bunker which was a tough shot. So that was one hole where if I played a practice round, it would have really helped me,” added Jaglan, who is coached by Nonita Lall Qureshi at Delhi Golf Club.
“The worst part was that I carry 16 clubs in my bag, and I only decide what clubs to take out after playing a practice round. So selecting what I should have in the bag was the hardest decision before Wednesday’s first round.
“I talked to my teammates about what they were planning, and I went over the yardage book with Arjun (Gupta, a Dubai-based Indian player) and that gave me a bit of an idea. I sat down with my yardage book again at night, just to see where the wind was going to come from and things like that.
“I usually switch my 2-iron and my 3-hybrid depending on the setup. I went over the wind direction and on the shorter holes it was going to be downwind. So hitting a 2-iron wasn’t really going to be necessary and I kept the hybrid. It worked out.
“It was a new experience, but I can’t complain. It is what it is. You have to be prepared for any eventuality, and this has been a good lesson.”