It’s twilight. The last few groups of players on the South Course of the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, have finished their practice round. Unbeknownst to them, one player is still out on the course, waiting patiently for precisely this moment. The lone figure of Shubhankar Sharma, 168 yards,It’s twilight. The last few groups of players on the South Course of the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, have finished their practice round. Unbeknownst to them, one player is still out on the course, waiting patiently for precisely this moment. The lone figure of Shubhankar Sharma, 168 yards out on the 18th fairway isn’t visible from the clubhouse overlooking the green. Eight-iron in hand, Sharma can barely discern the contours of the fairway snaking up to the green. But he knows the shot he has to play; he has seen it hundreds of times.The 22-year-old was three-years-old when Tiger Woods hit that iconic eight-iron from precisely the spot where Sharma is standing. Woods couldn’t see the green, but hit it to within two feet to win the 2000 WGC-NEC Championship, and holed the winning putt in the flicker of cigarette lighters held up by the gallery.For Sharma, that was the kind of defining the moment that got him into the game. Eighteen years later, with the PGA Tours camera crew in tow, he has found the exact spot, and is trying to replicate Tigers iconic approach. It’s so much harder than I thought, he says, after getting his fourth try to within six feet. And there’s no tournament on the line nor a single spectator. For Tiger to hit it in those conditions must have been so much harder!Sharma’s unabashed fanboy enthusiasm and demeanour are disarming, to say the least. His ambition at the WGC Bridgestone Championship is first and foremost to muster the courage to go and introduce myself to Tiger Woods! I think I’ll go say hi to him, but I’m a bit nervous. The last time he acted on an impulse like that in March at his first WGC event in Mexico walking across to Phil Mickelson on the practice green to introduce himself, it didn’t end so well. Mickelson, mistaking Sharma for a journalist, shooed him away. Sharma got his own back by leading that tournament and being paired with Mickelson in the final round.advertisementSharma’s rise in world golf is hard to put into perspective because there are no other models in the order of players amongst whom he ranks. The youngster’s blitz into the games top echelons climbing nearly 450 spots in five months to become the highest-ranked Indian player in the world, beggars imagination.I think you have to consider that I turned pro when I was 16 years old, he says. For a young lad, playing a big tournament in the company of his heroes, Sharma sounds remarkably calm on the eve of his first round at Bridgestone. My career hasn’t really followed a conventional progression. After winning the All-India Amateur, I turned pro even though everyone told us that it was not a smart move.No one is questioning that decision now; Sharma leads the standings on the Asian Tour; is in 20th place on the European Tour; and is ranked 88th in the world. Winning the Order of Merit in Asia will be an honour, he says, but isn’t an active goal. I will do what gives me the best shot at progressing on the global stage, and if becoming the top-ranked player in Asia is one of those things, then I’ll give it my best shot, he says with a level of tact that belies his age.Sharma’s success in 2018 has opened up the floodgates when it comes to corporate support but, tellingly, he refers to individuals who he’s sticking with because they’ve been there for him when he needed them the most. I’ve been so lucky, especially with sponsors. Rajeev Singh of DLF has supported me from the time I was an amateur. It’s no exaggeration if I say that without DLFs support, my path to where I am now would have been extremely rough. Besides DLF, Sharma speaks glowingly about Aloke Lohia of Indorama, a Thailand-based MNC who has been a sponsor since 2015 and H.R. Srinivasan of Take Solutions. I’m just one, H. R. Srinivasan has done so much to support so many golfers, says Sharma. Almost as an afterthought, he mentions the biggest deal the details of which he doesn’t divulge with Nike. I’m contracted with Nike on a long-term basis. I guess I’m on the right track, he says.As he navigates the dog-eat-dog world of professional sport, Sharma is single-mindedly focused on the game, leaving his father to iron out the logistics and sponsorships. He has eschewed the extremely lucrative option of getting an equipment sponsor because he plays with a mixed bag of clubs. You need sponsors to support your game, but if your game gets disturbed, then whats the point? And even though he’s happy playing in Europe, the long game, like most pros, lies in America. It definitely is still a goal to try and earn my PGA Tour card this year. That’s my aim and I want to make it there, he says.advertisementThere’s something refreshingly uncomplicated about Sharma. He doesn’t spend too much time pondering over future rewards, focusing instead on present realities.After a certain level, golf is the same everywhere. It’s you playing against the course. Every place has its unique conditions, peculiarities but those matter only to a point. Beyond that, it’s just golf, and your skills in the game, he muses. And golf favours the most those who simplify it the best.
The SQBD Sharks have beaten the Sydney Scorpions in extra time in an exciting match in the Men’s 45’s division at the 2009 X-Blades National Touch League in Port Macquarie.With the match locked at 5-5 at full time, the game got down to four players on each side in extra time before the Sharks’ Luke Shaw scored after 3 ½ minutes to give his team their first title in this division.The Scorpions’ start to the game was fast paced, scoring two tries in the first two minutes through Geoff Cheung and Rob Wethrill. Darryl Lancaster scored the Sharks first try in the 15th minute to get them onto the scoreboard, while Cheung had to be taken from the field just before half time, due to an injury. The Scorpions led 2-1 at half time.The Sharks leveled the score at 2-2 six minutes into the second half through Gary Nicholson. Scorpions captain and former League great Cliff Lyons was a forced substitute soon after, and Mark Jansson capitalised on this, scoring his first try to get the Sharks in the lead for the first time in the game.Lyons’ first touch of the footy after returning to the field set up Amir Ayoub in the corner to level the scores at 3-3 in the 12th minute of the second half. Jansson scored his second try two minutes later, while Ayoub scored his double not long after to bring the score to 4-4. Jansson then scored his third try in the next set of six to put the Scorpions into the lead, but Wethrill replied for the Scorpions to lock the game up at 5-5 at full time. Scorpions had their chances early on in extra time, but the Sharks proved too strong in their come from behind victory.