Up close with Sergio Garcia and more, Viraj’s memoirs from Liv Golf week

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Viraj Madappa - TheGolfingHub
Viraj Madappa claims practicing alongside Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na (captain of his team Iron Heads GC) did not leave him star struck at Liv Golf's inaugural event in London. Photo courtesy: Viraj Madappa (at the Asian Tour's International Series England)

It wasn’t till late two Sundays back did Viraj Madappa get to know that he would be part of a venture that has created deep fissures in the established golf order.

As a player on the Asian Tour, Viraj isn’t really affected by what transpires between Liv Golf and the big daddies of world golf — the PGA and DP World Tours. Nor did the thought take precedence that he was in with a chance to tee off in the Saudi-backed league’s maiden Invitational London event at the Centurion Club.

What was definitely playing in the head was a surge on the leaderboard on the final day of the Asian Tour’s International Series England at the Slaley Hall Hotel. The day went by like a blur with Viraj playing out of his skin, and the objective of moving up the Asian Tour order of merit was met. There was an add-on as well, Viraj was the lone Indian to qualify for the big-money Saudi event courtesy the T6 finish.

The body was crying out for rest but there no time to pause as Centurion Club beckoned. But the fatigue got assuaged somewhat by what greeted Viraj. “All the six qualifiers were treated like royalty and each of us got individual cabs from Newcastle to London,” said Viraj.

 

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Through the week, the vibe was “unbelievable”, what with the range of novelties. “Music played at the practice range all the time and fans were less than five feet away.” It was to Viraj’s liking, as were the talkative crowds, quite different from the “average golf fan”. “They were encouraged to be like that, and I like it that way too.”

If it was about fan experience and the bid to involve the youth, concerts on all days after the round seem to have met the objective. Another standout feature was the F1-like leaderboard, where every time a player climbed a spot his named popped up.

The stars, team format; golf-wise it was a normal week for Viraj, save the shotgun start and where he finished on the leaderboard. Playing the Saudi International in February had Viraj sample the pull of the PGA Tour stars, but practicing alongside Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Kevin Na (captain of his team Iron Heads GC) did not leave him star struck. The experience was, as he termed, “Like what I grew up dreaming of.”

The conversations that ensued will stay on, especially Sergio Garcia’s gesture in the locker room. “A friend had his birthday that day and I requested Sergio if he could record a short video wishing his die-hard fan. To my surprise, he readily agreed, and my friend’s day was made,” said Viraj.

 

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Accessibility is what being stressed upon. “Guys like Kevin, Sergio appear larger than life on TV, but actually they are very approachable (even for fans) and likeable,” said Viraj.

 

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Apart from the money on offer, Viraj liked what he saw that week and would like to be a part of the ensuing Invitational Series. There are chances on offer to qualify, but that will be in August when the Asian Tour has its International Series in Singapore and Korea.