By Rahul Banerji
It was a double scoop of success for Shubhankar Sharma with both the Arjuna Award, and news that he will be joined at the Melbourne World Cup of Golf by Anirban Lahiri.
The 22-year-old is currently India’s highest-ranked golfer at 107, while Lahiri is three places behind him.
They join a field of 56 for the $7 million event to be played at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, from November 21 to 25.
It will be a debut appearance for Sharma and Lahiri’ second essay at the World Cup of Golf since 2013 when he had paired up Gaganjeet Bhullar
“It’s my privilege to represent my country in the forthcoming World Cup of Golf at Melbourne. In Anirban, I will have a great partner and senior to guide us through the grind of the event and hopefully win it for us,” Sharma said.
“It’s a first time for me playing the World Cup as a team event so I’m really looking forward to the competition. I feel like it brings out the best in me. Hopefully, we can have a good run in Melbourne this year.
“Since the start of the year, I made this event as one of my goals as it has so much history, tradition and a wonderful list of past champions,” added Shubhankar, who has this year appeared at all four majors.
Added Lahiri , “I’m very excited to be pairing up with Shubhankar. He’s a special talent and a dear friend so obviously it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“We both have the capability to bring back the trophy if we can play to our abilities.”
Poulter, Kuchar in field
Meanwhile, England’s Ian Poulter will make his sixth appearance in the World Cup after being selected by fellow countryman Tyrrell Hatton.
The English pairing will start as one of the favourites, along with the previously confirmed Australian duo of Marc Leishman and World Cup debutant Cameron Smith.
South Africa’s Branden Grace selected fellow Presidents Cup veteran and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, while two-time PGA Tour winner Kyle Stanley and seven-time PGA Tour champion Matt Kuchar will represent the USA.
Kuchar, a winner o the WCG in 2011 has played in the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup four times apiece, as well as two World Cup of Golf appearances.
Denmark will defend their title, with Thorbjørn Olesen selecting 2016 partner Soren Kjeldsen hoping for a repeat performance.
A selection panel appointed by the sports ministry recommended Sharma’s name along with 19 other sportspersons for the nation’s second highest sporting honour, earlier this week.
He will receive the award from the President at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on September 25.
Sharma becomes the 20th Indian golfer and the 11th Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) member to be honoured with the Arjuna Award.
Past winners include Ali Sher (1991), Amit Luthra (1996), Harmeet Kahlon (1997), Jeev Milkha Singh (1999), Shiv Kapur (2002), Jyoti Randhawa (2004), Arjun Atwal (2007), Bhullar (2013), Lahiri (2014) and S.S.P. Chawrasia (2017).
Reacting to his nomination, Shubhankar said, “It has been more humbling than anything else. I am absolutely honoured and grateful to the nation to have found me worthy of this honour. I will do my best to live up to it and bring further laurels to my country.”