For more than a decade SSP Chawrasia has dominated India’s golfing landscape. As he chases an historic third successive Hero Indian Open title, we look back at the remarkable rags-to-riches story of the four-time European Tour winner.
With 16 of his 17 professional victories coming in India, it is safe to say that Chawrasia is one of his country’s most prolific winners.
But growing up as the son of a green keeper at Royal Calcutta Golf Club, it would have been beyond Chawrasia’s wildest dreams that he would go on to thrive in both the domestic, and global, game.
After a childhood spent watching others compete at one of India’s most prestigious courses, Chawrasia started work as a caddie at the age of 14, and after forming a close relationship with one member at Calcutta, a young Chawrasia was given his first set of clubs when he turned 15.
“It was a great help because golf sets are very expensive,” Chawrasia told the Telegraph India. “But to go out and participate in various tournaments was still a far-fetched dream. It needed a lot of money.
“Second problem was money because we had a big family so it wasn’t possible to get much help from my family.
“But they tried their best to give me as much support as they could. I also worked hard because I knew without hard work I could never reach where I wanted to.”
Following two further years working as a caddie in Calcutta, a 17 year old Chawrasia decided to join the paid ranks – a decision which he, and his family, initially believed was the wrong one.
“The biggest turning point in my life was becoming a professional golfer in 1997,” he said.
“My performance in the first few tournaments was dismal, but I began improving by practising hard. However, participating also meant dipping into my family's finances.
“Finally, my mother told me that a couple of tournaments in Punjab would be my last chance to prove myself. It was a sink or swim situation. Though I missed the cut by a single shot in the first tournament in Chandigarh, I had a great spell in the next two.”
On the back of those promising performances Chawrasia slowly began to adapt to the professional game, and came close to triumphing at his home course in the 1999 Hero Indian Open – where he finished in second place behind Arjun Atwal.
A first professional victory, and revenge over Atwal, came two years later at Delhi Golf Club in the 2001 Singhania Open – starting a spell of consistent success for Chawrasia.
Success did not come without incident though, and while the man from Calcutta was regularly winning on the Indian Golf Tour he was also met with adversity – both on and off the course.
“My maiden win came in 2001 in Delhi, he said.” “Thereafter, I began winning two or three tournaments a year.
“However, a bike accident in 2004, when I was preparing for the Asian Tour, left me with a broken right hand and shattered confidence. But eight months later, I bounced back by winning another tournament in Noida.
“I joined the Asian Tour in 2006, and played well in my first season. I was leading by five shots halfway through the Mercuries Masters tournament in Taiwan and was thrilled. So thrilled that I forgot to sign my scorecard and was disqualified.
“My confidence nose-dived again. I took refuge in the game, and it paid off when I came second at the Hero Honda Indian Open that year.”
The biggest breakthrough of Chawrasia’s came in 2008, though, where he earned a European Tour card for the first time by winning the Emmar-MGF Indian Masters – the first ever European Tour event to be held in India.
Since then his record in European Tour events held in India is phenomenal. Played eight, won four, with one runner-up finish.
Although renowned for his remarkable short game, the man affectionally known as ‘Chipputtsia’ stands at just five foot and five inches tall, with an average length off of the tee of 262.5 yards – the lowest on the European Tour last season.
With DLF Golf and Country Club, the site of two of his four European Tour wins, measuring a lengthy 7379 yards, why does Chawrasia believe he is so successful on home soil?
“I think I am more comfortable at home,” he said. “I love Indian food, and Indian people, which I think really helps me when I play here. I think the course really suits me too as although it is very long it is also very tight and I am a straight hitter.”
On the back of two successive Hero Indian Open victories, Chawrasia is looking to become the first player to win his national open three times in a row.
“I have won it a few times and it is a national event which is like a Major for us,” he said. “Having lots of supporters when I play in these events always makes a huge difference – to make my friends and family proud always inspires me too.”