Three months ago only the most avid of golf fans knew the name Shubhankar Sharma.
The 21 year old Indian finished 69th out of 147 players at the final stage of 2017 European Tour Qualifying School, but that hasn't stopped him in 2018. His season started with a top ten in Hong Kong and was quickly followed by two wins at the Joburg Open and most recently at the Maybank Championship, leading to his WGC debut in Mexico.
Today, Augusta National Golf Club announced that Sharma has accepted an invitation to this year's Masters Tournament meaning the Indian will make his Major debut in April. With that in mind, we thought we would provide fans with more information about one of golf's most exciting rising stars.
1) He is from the same town as Jeev Milkha Singh
Whilst India is more than 1.2m square miles in size, Shubhankar Sharma grew up in Chandigarh, the same town in northern region of the country as fellow European Tour winner Jeev Milkha Singh. Singh won four events on the European Tour from 2006 to 2012 and provided inspiration and support to Sharma. "I grew up watching so many successful Indian golfers complete on the world stage," Sharma said. "Jeev has always been very helpful in sharing his experience on everything and was one of the first to congratulate me when I won in Joburg."
2) He has eight professional wins
Whilst Sharma has notched two European Tour victories in recent months, he has eight professional titles to his name over the last four years. His first win came on the Professional Golf Tour of India in 2014 when he took home the PGTI Cochin Masters. Five more PGTI wins followed before he took home the Joburg Open late last year. A final round 62 at Saujana Country Club in February gave him a two-shot victory for his eighth win and put him atop the Race to Dubai rankings.
3) He's India's number one golfer
Following his win in Malaysia, Sharma jumped ahead of fellow countryman Anirban Lahiri in the Official Golf World Rankings to become India's highest ranked male golfer. Not bad for a country with a population of 1.3 billion. The next goal for the 21 year old will be surpassing Jeev Milkha Singh's highest ranking of 28th and becoming the highest ranked male Indian golfer ever.
4) He was formerly India's number one ranked junior
Before making headlines on the European Tour, Sharma had a stellar junior career in his home country. Prior to turning professional in 2013, Sharma won the All India Amateur Championship at the age of just 16.
5) His first club was a two-iron
For most golfers, the first club they receive is a putter or a wedge. Not Shubhankar Sharma. No one in his family really played golf, but his father Col. Sharma, formerly of the Indian army, took a passing interest in the game and took his son when he went out on the course. "My dad bought a set and I would tag along with him on the course." Sharma said. "After a month or two, he got me a cut-down two-iron. That was my first club."
6) He's part of an elite club
Following his two wins earlier in the season, Sharma joined Luke Donald, Jeunghun Wang and Jon Rahm as the only players in the last twenty years to win twice on the European Tour in their first 20 starts.
7) He's part of a young club
Similarly, having won twice before his 22nd birthday, Sharma joined Matteo Manassero, Jeunghun Wang and Matt Fitzpatrick as the only European Tour members to achieve that feat since the year 2000.
8) He's a had a record year already
Despite being only two months into the year, Sharma is the the only player currently ranked in the top 75 in the world who started the year ranked outside the top 200. The Indian finished 2017 ranked 202nd and is now at 66 in the Official Golf World Rankings.
9) He's uses meditation to help his game
Being from a traditional Indian home with a strong religious presence, Sharma has a strong spiritual side. "I was brought up in a religious household and the presence of God in our home was always strong. It's from that I began meditating which I do from time to time, usually on planes when I'm alone. This allows me to recalibrate and allows me to stay very grounded in time when there is a lot said about me - an attribute my mother is very strong on."
10) He is a Manchester United fan
Being from India, Sharma loves his cricket but is also an avid football fan, particularly when it comes to Manchester United. He says he tries to watch as much as he can when he is on the road and his hope is that he will be able to attend a game when the European Tour visits England later this year.