Veteran Gaurav Ghei walks down memory lane, relives career milestones
Gaurav Ghei was among the first few Indian professional golfers who made a name for themselves on the international stage. Ghei’s name is etched among the pantheon of Indian golfing greats as some of the landmark achievements of his career also happened to be defining moments for Indian golf.
The 51-year-old Gaurav, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour, took a walk down memory lane and relived his career milestones when he spoke to PGTI recently.
Ghei who was India’s No. 1 amateur golfer just a year before he turned professional in 1992, said, “I was never really serious about the game even though I loved the game and always played well as an amateur. I was a finalist at the All India Amateur twice.
“I only started thinking about pursuing golf seriously when I passed out of college and had a choice to join either a residential MBA program which I got into or play professional golf,” added the articulate golfer, who also represented India at various international events as an amateur including the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.
“I was ready to enroll at IMI which was a residential management institute before I got a brainwave that I wanted to play professional golf.
Then Mr. KK Bajoria, who I’ve known for a very long time from the Delhi Golf Club (DGC), knew the founder of that institute and he convinced him to hold my admission for a year.
“I then turned pro in December 1991 and gave myself a year to see if I could play well and make a living out of it. I had a good finish, 10th or 11th, at my debut event in Mhow in January 1992. Thereafter, I played about seven to eight events from till April 1992 and had a top-5 in every event. The last event of the season was the ADDI Cup which I went on to win.
“Then I played three tournaments on the Malaysian Tour. I won the first of those three events, the Desaru Classic in Johor, and had impressive finishes in the other two events as well. From then on there was no looking back for me. I thought if I could compete outside India then I have the game to play as a pro,” said Gaurav, who studied at Modern School Barakhamba Road, one of the capital’s most well-known schools.
Ghei’s triumph at the Gadgil Western Masters 1995 was a watershed moment for Indian golf as it was the first time an Indian won on the Asian Tour. The Delhi-based golfer achieved the feat with a sensational chip-in for eagle from 35 yards on the final hole in front of a rapturous home crowd at the DGC and thus edged out compatriot Vijay Kumar.
In 1996, Gaurav made international headlines when he defeated Colin Montgomerie, World No. 2 at the time, in the Alfred Dunhill Cup at the iconic St. Andrews golf course as India stunned the home team Scotland 2-1 in a best-of-three contest. The other two members of the Indian team were Jeev Milkha Singh and Ali Sher.
The following year Ghei scripted history at the ‘home of golf’ Scotland once again as he became the first Indian to play at a Major after he qualified for the British Open 1997 that was held at Royal Troon.
Gaurav enjoyed more success on the Asian Tour a few years later with victories at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters 2006 and Pine Valley Beijing Open 2007.
Ghei said, “The win at the Pine Valley Beijing Open is the most cherished moment of my career."
“I had previously performed very well on Bermuda Grass greens, playing in Asia, and living in India. However, I never used to do that well on Bent Grass greens that are generally found in colder climates. But finally winning on Bent Grass greens in Beijing and that too on a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course was highly satisfying.
“The fact that Jack Nicklaus was actually present during the tournament week in Beijing was also something very special for me. I got to meet him on the driving range. I’ve always admired Nicklaus for having the best record at the Majors and also for the way he’s handled his family life, business, and golfing career."
Gaurav, who represented India at the World Cup of Golf on three occasions (1997, 2003, 2007) and also bagged 17 titles on the Indian domestic circuit, is pleased to see the progress Indian professional golf has made in recent times.
He said, “Professional golf in India has made huge strides in recent years which can be attributed to having a strong domestic tour in the form of the PGTI. The PGTI has over the last decade and a half provided an ideal platform for our Indian professionals to hone their skills before moving on to higher tours. It is a highly competitive tour and, on many occasions, there is not much difference between the depth of the fields on the Asian Tour and the PGTI.”
Ghei secured a win at an Asian Seniors Tour event held in Bangkok, Thailand in October last year. He had also made it to the Final Stage of Qualifying of the European Senior Tour over the last two years.
Ever since the Delhi Golf Club reopened after the lockdown in May this year, the seasoned golfer has been back on the golf course with his sights now firmly set on qualifying for next year’s Senior British Open.