Making the big leap

ROOTED IN THE SELF I didn’t try to be anyone else. I understood my own game better, says Trishul. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

ROOTED IN THE SELF I didn’t try to be anyone else. I understood my own game better, says Trishul. Photo: K. Murali Kumar  


Trishul Chinnappa, one of the country's top amateur golfers, now gets set to turn pro

Turning professional is not an easy decision for an amateur golfer to make: jump too early and your confidence could shatter, too late and your development could stutter. Trishul Chinnappa is convinced, though, that he has timed his move just right. He speaks with a conviction and an understanding of his own game that is impressive.

“Last year, I wasn’t up there in terms of stroke-play. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t feel from within that I could take on a pro tour. I felt I needed more maturity,” he admits. This January, the 21-year-old entered the PGTI’s qualifying school and emerged not just with a tour card but with his reputation enhanced. With a confident charge on the final day, Trishul climbed almost all the way up to the top, victory denied only on the second play-off hole.

“When I decided to play Q-school in September, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure. It helped that it was at Eagleton. I thought the last few events of the year would be a good test. Now I know for sure that I’m in the right place at the right time,” he says.

Tarun Sardesai, his coach of over eight years, firmly offered his backing. “My coach has seen me at different junctures in my life. He’s told me to stop at times. This time he asked me to go for it.” 2014 was arguably the best year of Trishul’s career, the highlight his All-India Amateur Championship triumph. He finished five times in the top three (Western India Amateur, Bangladesh Amateur, Jharkhand Open, West Bengal Amateur and the All India Amateur), and ended the year in third place on the IGU Order of Merit. “I got more aware of myself,” he feels. “I didn’t try to be anyone else. I understood my own game better.”

But Trishul accepts that there is a vast gulf between a good amateur and even a decent professional. “A very good amateur is used to finishing on top all the time. As a professional, the fields are so big and the standard so good that there is little room for error. A professional knows how to handle it. He knows that bad days are bound to come. He knows how to deal with it.”

Dealing with failure – bad shots, bad rounds, bad weeks – is critical. Golf brutally exposes the diffident – under the weight of expectation, even the best fritter away leads in inexplicable fashion. Trishul nearly had one such meltdown himself last year, almost blowing a four-stroke lead in the Southern India Amateur that he eventually won. “I’ve understood that it's normal to be nervous,” he smiles. “It’s about keeping that aside and dealing with the situation.”

Some credit for that equanimity must go to Afeef Ahmed, his ‘mind coach’. “He asked me to be aware of how I reacted after every bad shot. One bad shot would lead me into a negative spiral, a string of more bad shots. So what he helped me do is jump out of it and approach the next shot afresh. Little things like these have come together.” Also part of his success are Ryan Fernando, his nutritionist, and Nagendra Prasad, his fitness trainer. Such a rigorously professional setup may seem surprising, but it is essential, assures Trishul, as golf sees the advent of increasingly athletic performers (the likes of Angel Cabrera remain glorious exceptions).

“The sport itself is getting more athletic. People are swinging harder and if you swing harder it also means more strain. People earlier used to play out safe. Now if you’re strong enough from the rough, you can go out and hit it hard – you can get out of trouble, get out of plug lies. Those may matter for one or two shots in a tournament but you can win or lose an event by one shot.”

Trishul grew up in southern Coorg playing a number of sports, all with active encouragement from his father, Karun Chinnappa. He moved to Bengaluru in 2002, golf one of the primary reasons, living on his own for some time. The thought of how far he’d come helped him stay motivated when his career appeared to be stagnating sometime last year. “From early 2013 to mid-2014, there was no improvement in my scoring average. Suddenly I felt unaware of my direction,” he concedes. “But I never entertained thoughts of quitting. I had to completely understand why I’m here, why I’m playing the game. It took me some time. Growing up in Coorg, no other kid played golf when I did. My parents brought me to Bangalore and made a lot of sacrifices. I realised this was an opportunity not everyone got.”

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Printable version | May 22, 2019 8:55:43 PM |

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