After double whammy, PGTI order of merit champion felled by lockdown

After seven wins on the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) and the 2014 order of merit title, Shankar Das finds himself out of contention. Since 2010, Das never finished outside the top-20 on the PGTI order of merit and has maintained all through that he did not battle hardships early on to figure among the also-ran in a sport he learnt at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC).

The 37-year-old was 30th last season, but consoled himself with the thought that but for the two freak accidents towards the close of 2019, the season could have been much better. Things appeared to be looking up at the start of 2020 before the pandemic struck; leaving Das and those like him dependent solely on earnings from the PGTI in uncertainty after events got postponed.

Das went into the summer break in May last with four top-10 results and was looking forward to big prize money events in a packed second half. The season resumed in September with an Asian Tour event at the Classic Golf and Country Club in Mewat, Haryana. A happy hunting ground, Das hoped to better the past but had to pull out into his opening round. On the 11th hole he felt excruciating pain in the lower back making it difficult to even stand. Seeing the on-site doctor brought temporary relief but the pain kept coming back. On return to Kolkata, medical investigation showed an injury that Das had sustained at 13 while playing football at the Maidan had resurfaced. “The doctor said the pain flared up because of the heat and advised rest,” said Das. Keeping in mind PGTI’s anti-doping regulations, medicines were prescribed along with physiotherapy sessions. In the interim, he had to skip Jeev Milkha Singh’s invitational event in October with a prize purse of R1.5 crore. Das travelled for November’s Panasonic Open, another Asian Tour event in Mewat, but the T50 showed the time away had left him out of touch.

The ensuing week made matters worse. During the practice round of the IndianOil Servo Masters in Digboi, Assam, Das struck a rock while going for a fairway shot, a rare occurrence on a golf course. The jarring impact with the club head hurt the left wrist, leaving him in discomfort. “Having come here, I had to play, and painkillers, sprays made it possible,” said Das, but missed the next event at RCGC, his home course. The season ended on a somber note but was a novelty as Das had never skipped events due to injuries in his 18-year professional career.

The break allowed Das to get fit and the start to 2020 proved he was ready to compete as well with a top-10 in the opening event in February. The season was in its infancy when sensing the lockdown PGTI postponed four events spread over March, April and May. With no timeline when the Tour will resume, Das is a worried man. “With bills to pay and a family to support, these are tough times, especially on the back of a poor season,” he said. Nowhere to go and with little scope for practice at home, Das is banking on patience to see him through this testing phase.

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