May 26, 2020
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The Drive To Be Best

Shivin Kwatra is India’s youngest and most promising champion

The Drive To Be Best

HE’S only 15 years old and has made breaking records a habit. But that’s not what makes Shivin Kwatra a great golfer. Kwatra’s unique quality lies in his attitude, his singular mindset which is his biggest asset in blazing a path to the top.

That ability to concentrate was evident at the Eisenhower World Amateur Cup, considered to be the Olympics of golf. Kwatra breezed through the tournament’s qualifying round in Singapore two weeks prior to the Cup, along with teammates Amit Luthra, 36, Harmeet Kahlon, 26, and Digvijay Singh, 24. Participating in the tournament were 188 amateurs from 47 countries. The level of competition at the Cup was understandably tough, as three former junior world champions participated, including Joel Kribel who is golf star Tiger Wood’s teammate in the US. Kwatra was not entirely fit.

Says his father Percy Kwatra, who also plays golf: "I told him that he could pull out as he had a muscle strain, but he insisted on playing." Records, as they are wont to do with him, came tumbling down. He became the youngest person ever to have participated in the tournament. India finished 12th, its best showing at the Cup, thanks largely to Kwatra’s score of at even par 288. His personal ranking was 20th at the Cup and he finished ahead of all the three former junior world champions.

Ask him what the winning formula is and he first mumbles and then articulates: "Just the drive to play better." Not that it is easy. A class XI student at Modern School, Kwatra most of the time is like any other kid. None of his friends play golf; in fact, none of them play any sport seriously. So while his buddies have time on their hands, Kwatra has to start his day with school, then go for golf practice, jogging, calisthenics, tuitions, homework, and a spot of meditation at night for better mind control. Not that the tight schedule bothers him. He says: "There is no pressure on me to play or to do anything. It’s not easy to practice, but I do it because I want to be good at golf." So, what makes him tick? Especially in a game where mind control is probably more important than talent? "You should never give up. On the course, one day you may be sad, one day you may be happy—there is always a bunch of thoughts in your head but the key is to stay focused. Your mood shouldn’t affect the game." Mature thoughts for a 15-year-old.

Kwatra picked up golf when he was just five years old. He can’t quite remember why he started. And just a year later, he had participated in his first tournament. By the time he was 10 years old, he became the youngest player to win the All India Sub-junior Golf Championship. Says his father, who is his coach and record-keeper rolled into one: "He has excellent hand-eye coordination which one has to be born with. It can’t be taught."

The question now being asked is when Kwatra plans to turn pro. Ahead of him also lies the possibility of a golf scholarship to one of the premier universities in America. But Kwatra is still undecided. Says he: "It’s very tough to find a balance between academics and golf. You are always doing one at the cost of the other." But golf is the priority—that’s clear in his mind as well as his father’s. They cite the instance of Tiger Woods who had left Stanford University as he couldn’t keep up decent grades as well as play international golf. Says Amit Luthra, who was Kwatra’s team mate at the Eisenhower Cup and who has won at least 40 amateur titles in the country: "There is a lot of similarity between him and Tiger Woods. He has the same potential as Woods." High praise considering that Woods at present is the brightest star on the international professional circuit. Being 15 also means going out for dinners or partying with friends, sometimes even girlfriends. But he prefers not to talk of girlfriends and steers clear of the subject even as his father gently reminds him that there is nothing wrong in going out with them. "Please, dad!" is all he says. There are more important things on his mind right now. Golf, for instance. And it’s time to go for practice. A polite thank you and he is out of the house. All set to break a few more records. 

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