Rahil’s tonic for first-time Olympian Udayan: Believe you can beat the best

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The phone conversations between Rahil Gangjee and Udayan Mane (in pic) centred on instilling belief that Udayan was good enough to beat the best this week at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: PGTI
The phone conversations between Rahil Gangjee and Udayan Mane (in pic) centred on instilling belief that Udayan was good enough to beat the best this week at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: PGTI

Udayan Mane did not have to think twice before making a call to Rahil Gangjee in faraway Japan. Playing together on Tour has been enough for familiarization and with time the awe of hanging out with a senior pro melted and made way for camaraderie. In January, Udayan flew down to Bangalore from Pune and stayed with Rahil and a group of friends, adding to the comfort level.

What followed that relaxing phase for Udayan was some golf on the Professional Golf Tour of India, lockdown, anxiety and finally a berth in the Olympics. Among the first things on the mind amid the frenetic activity that started following the Tokyo qualification was exchanging notes in whatever time was left.

Had the times been normal and Rahil Gangjee allowed access to the Olympic venue, his insight into the conditions in Japan would have helped Anirban Lahiri and Udayan Mane.
Had the times been normal and Rahil Gangjee (right) allowed access to the Olympic venue, his insight into the conditions in Japan would have helped Anirban Lahiri and Udayan Mane.

Rahil, a winner on the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO) and in competition mode since April, was Udayan’s best bet to get a hang of what to expect in terms of conditions, etc. In fact, the desperation for playing opportunities abroad with India in lockdown had got Udayan an invite to the Asia Pacific Diamond Cup in Japan through the Asian Tour. The burly golfer would taken the flight and undergone the mandatory 14-day quarantine had our man in Japan not intervened.

Also Read: Udayan Mane upbeat after unique Olympic buildup

“It wasn’t worth the effort for just one event,” said Rahil. Udayan stayed put but their conversations became more frequent. More than golf, the chats were about getting the mind ready for a magnum stage like the Olympics. “Playing the Games is not an individual thing, you are doing it for the country, a chance that comes once in four years,” said Rahil.

Udayan did not need to be told what is to be done on the golf course. “He is a damn good golfer, getting the mind in place and instilling belief that he can beat all the guys teeing off this week was important”, said Rahil. This was necessary as Udayan was away from competitive golf since March and at this level mind games do matter.

Another piece of advice was to practice on “really fast greens” but as per Rahil’s information, that has not happened. Since the JGTO is not involved this week with the organisation, no information has been shared on likely pin positions. Rahil would have liked to help more than merely the words, “Let me know if you guys need anything in Japan,” but such are the times of social distancing. But yes, he did put Udayan in touch with the right people in his search for new wedges and a putter.

Notes will continue to be exchanged but for an Olympic greenhorn settling down quickly after the opening day nerves will be important. It will be here that Anirban Lahiri will step in with his experience of playing in the Far East during his time on the Asian Tour and now as a PGA Tour regular.