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Golf: Lahiri, Bhullar to fly flag for India’s ‘next generation’ at World Cup

Anirban Lahiri (pictured), 26, and Gaganjeet Bhullar, 25, will represent the new faces of Indian golf when they make their World Cup debut at Royal Melbourne next week. Photo: Asian Tour.

Anirban Lahiri (pictured), 26, and Gaganjeet Bhullar, 25, will represent the new faces of Indian golf when they make their World Cup debut at Royal Melbourne next week. Photo: Asian Tour.

November 15, 2013: Anirban Lahiri and Gaganjeet Bhullar believe their debut appearance at next week’s ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf in Australia is a massive boost for the rise of a new generation of Indian golf stars.

 

The close friends and World Cup debutants plan to bring glory to their nation with a strong showing at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club from November 21-24 as they vie for a lucrative prize pot of US$8 million in the 60-man field.

 

“The next generation of Indian golfers is taking over. I guess we have to take up the responsibility,” said Bhullar, who at 25 is a year younger than Lahiri.

 

“Times have changed and a lot of youngsters are coming up and playing well on the Asian Tour. I guess it shows the gap has narrowed between the younger generation and the veterans like Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal.”

 

Bhullar is currently third on this year’s Asian Tour money list, one ahead of Lahiri, who has had one victory and three runner-up finishes.

 

“Both Gaganjeet and I have stepped our games up in the last 24 months and it is great that we get rewarded by playing in the World Cup,” Lahiri added.

 

Bhullar and Lahiri have been pushing each other up the upper echelons of the Asian Tour. They initially teamed up as amateurs to help India win the silver medal at the Asian Games in 2006 and in the past four seasons as pros, they have won a combined seven Asian Tour titles.

 

Lahiri now wants to put on an impressive performance at Royal Melbourne to show that Indian golf is in good hands, carrying on from the days when Singh, Atwal and Jyoti Randhawa brought glory to the country by capturing the Asian Tour Order of Merit titles on four occasions.

 

“The World Cup of Golf is something that I’m looking forward to,” Lahiri said. “A couple of years ago, Gaganjeet and I had a great chance at the qualifying event but we missed out. That was a heartbreak, so it will be nice to finally get to play.”

 

Bhullar is equally fired up to represent his nation. “This is going to be my first World Cup and I’m excited,” he said. “It will be a great experience for me. Golf is an individual sport so the World Cup has a different charm in it when you get the opportunity to represent your country.”

 

Both Lahiri and Bhullar will enjoy a good warm up at Royal Melbourne as they’re currently competing in the Talisker Masters at the same venue. Lahiri said qualifying for the World Cup would also boost their hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.

 

“That’s we what play for,” said Lahiri, joint runner-up second at last weekend’s Hero Indian Open on the Asian Tour. “When I played as an amateur, I played for India in many events. As a professional, you want to keep doing it and winning medals and honour for your country. It means a lot more when you are doing something more than winning titles for yourself.”

 

India’s best showing in the World Cup in recent years was a ninth-place finish by Atwal and Randhawa in 2005. This year’s World Cup will offer US$7 million for the individual category and US$1 million for teams who are eligible with two players represented at the event.

 

Bhullar said: “The new format is good preparation for the 2016 Olympics. It gives everybody a good idea on how to cope with the format. It’s a very good format.

 

“It’s a very exciting moment in my career. Hopefully my family and some of my relatives in Australia will follow me on the golf course. It’s always a great and different feeling when you are representing your country.”

 

Other Asian players who have qualified for the World Cup through the Official World Golf Ranking are Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prayad Marksaeng, China’s Liang Wenchong and Alex Wu Ashun, Korea’s KJ Choi and Bae Sang-moon, Filipinos Angelo Que and Antonio Lascuna, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Hideto Tanihara and Siddikur of Bangladesh.

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