Gaurav Ghei was at the top of his game in 1997 but on the personal front wasn’t in a happy space. He left for the final qualifying to the Open Championship in some discomfort on account of his father’s ill health.
Despite this, he finished second in the qualifier at the Irvine Golf Club to set himself up for a epochal week at the Royal Troon.
An Indian was featuring in a Major for the first time and though he was overwhelmed by the conditions, Gaurav’s sharp mind absorbed all that unfolded and he recounted every minute detail 24 years down as if it were yesterday.
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It all came about in 1997 when Johnnie Walker decided to support a bunch of pros from the Asian Tour to the final qualifying and take care of their expenses. For Gaurav, the experience of playing the Dunhill Cup not long ago St Andrews Old Course helped.
Of course, the timing was different, and compared to the ferocious conditions in October, when the Dunhill Cup was staged, July was much calmer at Irvine GC, and paved the way for Gaurav’s climb up the leaderboard.
Royal Troon was a different ball game and though Gaurav was in “golfing heaven”, the impossible pin positions often had him asking if they were legal. The scars from Hole Nos 11 and 18 took time to heal as the demanding conditions at Royal Troon’s back nine exaggerated bad shots, but Gaurav came away with the belief that he belonged to the big league.
Photo credit: Gaurav Ghei