That India’s 13-year-old Kartik Singh, the youngest player in the field at this year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, turned out to be a golfer is almost a case of divine intervention.
Father Dhananjay, a naval officer, is a firm believer it was a message from the Gods.
It so happened that the Singhs were based in the small, southern Indian town of Kochi, when a six-year-old Kartik followed his father to the Navy course, and immediately impressed everyone around with his ability to hit golf shots within the first few days.
With everyone calling him a prodigal talent, Dhananjay decided to take Kartik to the nearby town of Bengaluru and get his abilities evaluated by a coach at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) Club, one of the most popular golf courses in the country.
Even the coach at KGA was impressed. At the end of the week, he invited Kartik to play nine holes with him on the golf course.
Dhananjay needed to pay the green fee first, which was INR2,900 (approximately $35) for nine holes. Used to paying less than a dollar at the Naval facilities, Dhananjay was shocked at the steep green fee, and told Kartik there was no need to play a round.
That’s when Seema, Kartik’s mom, stepped in. “She said we should have done our homework better and be prepared for the cost. Now that we told him he was going to play a round, Kartik would be heartbroken if he is not allowed to,” recalled Dhananjay of the incident in 2017.
Seema, who also served in the Indian Navy, had given up her job and became a full-time housemaker as Kartik, a pre-maturely born baby, needed more attention growing up. As the Singhs walked with their son, Seema told Dhananjay that she needed to find a job urgently. It was evident that Kartik’s golf training was going to be very expensive for a single-salary family.
“You won’t believe it, but we finished the round and just a few minutes after that, Seema got a call. She had applied for a job with Indigo Airlines a few months ago, and the call was from them to come to Delhi for an interview. Not only did she get the job, but she was posted in Delhi, which turned out to be great for Kartik. He could go to the DLF Golf & Country Club, where he met his coach Deepinder Khullar, and is able to use the amazing facilities at a course consistently rated India’s No1,” said Dhananjay.
“We often think of that round in Bengaluru and the phone call. It was as if Kartik was destined to play golf. It’s been a very exciting journey for all of us since then, and long may this continue.”
Confidence in Own Ability
That journey is about to reach a new milestone as Kartik received an invitation to play the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and is looking forward to the challenge of Royal Melbourne Golf Club from October 26-29 against the finest amateur stars of the region.
His age is not something that bothers Kartik, who will be India’s highest-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) at number 213, following the injury-related withdrawal of 2018 runner-up Rayhan Thomas.
“I may be the youngest in the field, but I am excited to be able to compete against the best players in our region. I like to test myself against better players. Even earlier this year, I could have played the US Kids World Finals in my age category, but when I got an invite from the USGA for the U.S. Junior Amateurs (where again he was the youngest in the field), I decided to play there,” said Kartik, who recently made his fourth hole-in-one in an Indian Golf Union-conducted national-level tournament.
“I also have the great example of China’s Guan Tianlang, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at the age of 14 and then went on to become the youngest player ever to make the cut at The Masters. I am not saying I will win, but I have the belief in my game.”
Long Hitting Youngster
Kartik is well built for his age and has good numbers with his clubs to be competitive at Royal Melbourne. His average driving distance is close to 290 yards now, and he has identified short game as his focus area as he prepares for the Dr. Alister MacKenzie-designed golf course.
“From what I have found out, the greens are going to be very firm and tricky, which makes the short game very important. It is a long golf course for me, so I will also try and sharpen my mid-iron game,” said Kartik, who loves solving Rubik’s Cube and has a personal best time of 10.92 seconds.
However, Kartik’s greatest thrill is to be able to play a new golf course.
“He is most excited about Royal Melbourne Golf Club right now. To get a chance to play a course which is rated one of the best in the world by his idol Tiger Woods, is probably what excites him the most,” father Dhananjay added.
“We don’t know how he will perform. But I am sure he will be the happiest player on the course.”