Escape from Madagascar



It has been a hectic fortnight for Anirban Lahiri, India’s top-ranked golfer, who teed up at the British Open this week. The leader on Asian Tour Order of Merit, Lahiri travelled to Munich to play the BMW International on an invite but missed the cut.

Nevertheless, there was something to look forward to — a honeymoon in Madagascar, which he had planned with his newlywed wife, Ipsa. En route to Madagascar, disaster struck in Paris airport, where his backpack was stolen. It included his Macbook, money, personal stuff and an old passport with a valid visa that he needed to travel to the US next month for the PGA Championships.

After lodging his complaint with the French Police and arranging for a new appointment for a fresh visa to the US, Lahiri proceeded to Madagascar, looking forward to his maiden attempt at diving and seeing some of loveliest corals in the world.

But two days into the honeymoon, and a day before he was going into the rainforest, he got a call saying he had been given a spot in the British Open. For any professional golfer, it would be a dream. So it was for Lahiri, but he had to make fresh plans now.

Since he had not qualified for the British Open earlier and did not expect a late invite, he planned a honeymoon in precisely that period. Now, it had all changed.

INDIANS AT THE OPENOnly seven Indians have played any Major and all seven have played the British Open at least once

Gaurav Ghei (1991)
Jyoti Randhawa (2000, ’03 and ’07)
Arjun Atwal(2004)
Jeev Milkha Singh (2007 and ’12)
Shiv Kapur (2006 and ’13)
Gaganjeet Bhullar (2009)
Anirban Lahiri (2012 and ’14)

Best finish
Tied 27th by Jyoti Randhawa in 2004

Best finish on debut
Tied 31st by Anirban Lahiri in 2012

Only hole-in-one
Anirban Lahiri in 2012

“I got a call from Asian Tour and then my manager Neeraj, whose company Sportsmantra also manages Shiv Kapur, confirmed it and we had to change plans yet again,” he says. “The best way to get back to Mumbai was via Mauritius, but our flight got delayed because of technical reasons and we missed our connection.”

On reaching India, he had to apply for a UK visa, which he did not have, and then book flights and accommodation, never the easiest thing at the Open golf venue. Still, with his manager’s help, he managed it.

In between that and leaving for Hoylake, he squeezed in a day’s practice with his coach Vijay Divecha, who had, meanwhile, gone to Goa for a golf project.

By the time he reached Hoylake, he was tired but over the next three days, he had settled down despite a slight fever and fatigue.

“If only I can repeat what I did in 2012 (where he finished tied 31st and had a hole in one), it would be terrific,” says Lahiri. “If someone had told me at the start of the year that I would play two Majors (British and PGA) in the space of one month, I would have been super excited.

“Now that it has happened, it would mean nothing if I didn’t do well,” says Lahiri. “That’s my next challenge.”


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