Scepticism was the flavour when the country went into another forced break in March. While the lead-up to the second wave of the pandemic wasn’t very different for Kartik Sharma, he was assured on the work front. The Delhi-NCR Open, the last event on the Professional Golf Tour of India before the stall, was a career best for the 21-year-old. He finished 7th and hence the determination to not let the virulent virus hamper practice during the time indoors.
Restart was eagerly awaited, and in anticipation Kartik set up a facility in Lucknow, where his father is posted. The living room carpet was placed in the backyard and served as a hitting net from close quarters. The manicured grass was the putting and chipping area, and the venue for the fitness drills. All in all, it was a packed schedule.
“The routine never stopped; I never took a day off,” said Kartik. But there was a pause, one that shook the young man to the core and lent perspective in matters other than golf. Kartik’s family contracted COVID in early May, he got infected a second time, mother Sudha spent almost a fortnight in intensive care and his grandmother succumbed to the virus.
It was traumatic to say the least and that did not go unnoticed by the parent despite being very sick. “It was at her insistence that I got back to practice,” said Kartik, but not before that dark phase let it dawn that “family ranked much higher than golf”. He slowly slipped into a schedule and by August was into real-time practice at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, his training arena for long.
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Perhaps it was what he had been through that it took time to adjust to real-time practice before action started on Tour. Picking up from where he left off in March, Kartik has carried on in the same vein. Back then, it was under-par on all four days, and the start to the Golconda Masters has been on similar lines. After Thursday’s 70 on the par-71 Hyderabad Golf Club, Kartik’s score plunged deeper. Overnight rain led to the course being shortened to par-68, but those putts had to be sunk alright.
A 9-under 59 it was for the wiry golfer and a share of the third spot. At 10-under 129, he is seven shots behind leader Manu Gandas. A smile played as Kartik posed with the scorecard that has class written all over, but there was reflection as well that a high on the golf course can never surpass the pain of watching a loved one suffer.
Photo credit: Kartik Sharma