If S. Chikkarangappa's life was a movie, it could have been dismissed as yet another improbable success-of-sporting-underdog narrative. Set in Rangigowdanadoddi, a village on the outskirts of Bangalore, the story of a little boy's journey from chasing balls at the driving range in Eagleton Golf Resort to supplement the family income, to becoming arguably the country's best junior golfer, sounds like the stuff of foolishly far-fetched scriptwriting.
Except, of course, Seenappa Chikkarangappa's life is no movie.
Last month's win at the All-India Junior golf tour final at Eagleton earned the 17-year-old the distinction of becoming the first player to ever hold the All-India junior and All-India Amateur (senior) titles at the same time.
“I had no idea I was going to be good at golf or anything,” he says. “I used to work as a forecaddie on weekends and the game just looked interesting,” he recalls. Fashioning his first club out of a lump of wood, Chikka spent time driving, after school in his village, only aware that what he did “looked like hockey”.
It was on one such weekend, in early 2004, when he was playing in a corner by himself on the course, that coach Vijay Divecha called him over. “He looked on with great interest all the time, so I asked him to try it out,” he says. Before that though, an interpreter had to be found: Divecha spoke no Kannada and the kid knew nothing else. “I said I had no money,” Chikka recollects, “but he said he would work something out if I was interested in playing.”
Divecha obtained permission from Eagleton for Chikka to use the course, teaching him when time permitted. If Eagleton was easily convinced, Chikka's parents weren't. “They were apprehensive,” he says. “Relatives came over and spoke against it. But I asked my mother for a year's time; I only asked her to trust me.”
Two months later, in April 2004, Chikka went to Ooty for his first junior tournament and finished second. His second competition came later that year at Eagleton, when he notched up his first win. “I cried after I finished second at Ooty,” he reveals. “I felt I had failed. But that win changed everything.”