India's 13-year-old golf prodigy
- Shubham Jaglan is an Indian golf prodigy
- He learned golf with the help of YouTube videos
- Golf on the rise in India but still a minority sport
A popular sport in his village of Israna, 100 kilometers north of Delhi, wrestling was a way of life for many of his older relatives.
But his grandfather didn’t want any more wrestlers in the family. He insisted the young boy try something else and enrolled him in a newly opened golf academy in the village.
Despite his family’s protests, Shubham showed promise.
“I was about six when I started golf,” Jaglan tells CNN while taking time out of studying for his school exams.
“It was completely out of the blue. Nobody expected what was going to come and in the beginning, the initial few days, as one can imagine, the family weren’t very supportive. They didn’t know anything about the sport.”
The academy was shortlived — too expensive to run in a rural Indian village — and closed down after a few months. But for Jaglan, brimming with raw ability and natural talent, a seed had been sown.
Without regular lessons, the young boy spent hours playing in his backyard and poring over YouTube videos to perfect his technique.
‘A huge sacrifice’
He’s won more than 100 events and finished No. 1 on the Indian junior merit list a number of times. He’s won four world junior events and two European championships for his age group, the most of recent of which he claimed in Scotland last year — by nine shots.
His most prized possession is the IMG Academy Junior World Championship title from 2015; also inscribed on that trophy are the names of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
He wants to play regularly on the PGA Tour and become India’s first major winner.
“My parents have been a huge part of the little success I’ve had,” he says. “They’ve basically given up everything.
“They moved from my village down to Delhi which is a huge sacrifice on their part because it is a completely new city, completely new people — all based on the belief that they had in me and my talent.
“My Dad tells me that, when I was starting out, he was with me everywhere I went. He’s basically dedicated his whole life to golf and my future.”
Under the guidance of Nonita Lall Qureshi, who’s coached Jaglan ever since he joined Delhi Golf Club, he’s traveled to the USA, Scotland, and Thailand, as well as playing up to 10 tournaments each year in India.
After eight months out of the game due to a stress fracture in his back, Jaglan is back winning silverware, winning the Samarvir Sahi Amateur Championship by three shots in March.
India’s golfing mission
Jaglan’s journey so far is impressive for a boy of any age, from any country. But in India, where all sports come second to cricket, the narrative is even more special.
Of India’s 1.3 billion population, there are 500 million cricketers and fewer than 150,000 golfers.
There are 270 courses, which works out at 4.9 million people per course compared to 22,000 in the UK. Many are expensive or restricted to access for the military only.
At an elite level, however, the future of Indian golf looks promising; a crop of players have garnered significant attention on the global stage.
SSP Chowrasia has won four European Tour events, while Anirban Lahiri is a two-time European Tour winner.
Some 15,000 kilometers from Mexico, Jaglan stayed up until 2 a.m. to cheer on Sharma in the final round.
“People are becoming more aware of the sport,” says Jaglan.
“We have forced the media to focus more on golf, where cricket is sometimes seen as the only sport.
“Seeing Indian golfers perform so well makes a dream seem a reality … They’re playing fantastic and I don’t feel my game is too far behind theirs.”
Jaglan has recently taken the step up from junior to open level and he believes that once he has gone through puberty, he has the technical ability to compete at the top level. It’s the mental aspect he needs to work on, he admits.
“It’s about developing a positive mindset and believing in yourself,” he says.
Belief first motivated Jaglan’s parents to move to Delhi. It also convinced a coach and academy to invest in this young golfer.
And it is also belief that continues to inspire Shubham Jaglan as he chases his dream of becoming India’s first major champion.