NEW DELHI: “The Open has been my favourite event. As a kid, I always dreamt of playing at The Open. I played the qualifying on a Monday and finished second in the qualifier. By the time I got to know I had qualified it was around 7 pm. Next morning I was at Troon for the practice round. It was awesome just to be there and to soak in the occasion. Sharing a locker room with Phil Mickelson and seeing Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson across because they had the Champions locker room is something that will stay with me for life.
“I just love Scotland as a golfing destination for the sheer beauty of the courses and the golfing history associated with it. I grew up watching The Open on tape and loved the way the courses were. After playing in Scotland, I realized that one is required to play a totally different brand of golf at the links courses there. I’ve been a feel oriented player and good around the greens, so when the weather was bad in Scotland, guys like me had an advantage,” said Gaurav, who lists the 3-Wood and Lob Wedge as the two clubs he’s most confident of hitting.
Ghei, who credits the acclaimed coach Claude Harmon for helping improve his ball-striking, had an outstanding season on the Indian domestic circuit in 1996-97 as he won five events and went on to clinch the Order of Merit title. To add to that he won the Asian Tour’s Johnnie Walker Asian Player of the Year Award in 1997.
Gaurav enjoyed more success on the Asian Tour a few years later with victories at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters 2006 and Pine Valley Beijing Open 2007.
Ghei said, “The win at the Pine Valley Beijing Open is the most cherished moment of my career. Eleven years after winning Gadgil, I won the Mercuries Taiwan Masters and then came the win at Beijing a year later. I somewhere wanted to prove to myself that winning in Taiwan in 2006 wasn’t a fluke. That’s the reason the victory in Beijing was all the more sweet.
“I had previously performed very well on Bermuda Grass greens, playing in Asia and living in India. However, I never used to do that well on Bent Grass greens which are generally found in colder climates. But finally winning on Bent Grass greens in Beijing and that too on a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course was highly satisfying.
“The fact that Jack Nicklaus was actually present during the tournament week in Beijing was also something very special for me. I got to meet him on the driving range. I’ve always admired Nicklaus for having the best record at the Majors and also for the way he’s handled his family life, business and golfing career. I can’t think of any other sportsperson who’s handled these three aspects of life better.”
Gaurav, who represented India at the World Cup of Golf on three occasions (1997, 2003, 2007) and also bagged 17 titles on the Indian domestic circuit, is pleased to see the progress Indian professional golf has made in recent times.
He said, “Professional golf in India has made huge strides in recent years which can be attributed to having a strong domestic tour in the form of the PGTI. The PGTI has over the last decade and a half provided an ideal platform for our Indian professionals to hone their skills before moving on to higher tours. It is a highly competitive tour and on many occasions there is not much difference between the depth of the fields on the Asian Tour and the PGTI.”
Ghei secured a win at an Asian Seniors Tour event held in Bangkok, Thailand in October last year. He had also made it to the Final Stage of Qualifying of the European Senior Tour over the last two years.
Ever since the Delhi Golf Club reopened after the lockdown in May this year, the seasoned golfer has been back on the golf course with his sights now firmly set on qualifying for next year’s Senior British Open.
Ghei signs off with advice for youngsters who want to become professional golfers, “You need to play it like a sport and enjoy it. That’s how you will get longevity and not burn out. If you have fun playing it then you don’t mind putting in the hard work and hitting balls all day. I would also add that dealing with adversity in my personal life during the peak of my playing career taught me that life is a lot more than just playing golf so you should be grateful for just being able to play the sport you love.”