Monday, November 29, 1999

Chikka on the road to stardom

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Bangalore, May 16 -- Left to himself, Chikkarangappa would have wilted, playing cricket in the dusty lanes of his village, not too far from Eagleton - The Golf Resort. In fact, when approached by renowned coach Vijay Divecha, at the course on a weekend, when he was working as a bally boy, the first reaction was, "I am here to earn money, not spend it." Divecha had watched Chikka, then a little over 10, practice at the range with a wooden club the boy had fashioned out of a branch, and spotted a spark. Divecha convinced the young lad that resources wouldn't be a problem, and from there commenced Chikka's journey towards stardom. Tales such as this, and the one about the Japanese gentleman, Kato, who gifted Chikka his first golf bag containing a set of 10 ladies' clubs, are constantly replayed to help the youngest All-India Amateur champion stay connected to his roots. Also playing in the mind are his mother's words, "Come what may, never discard your humility." On the course, Chikka prefers to go by memory. Drawing from it on Saturday, he came up with his third consecutive sub-par card in the 31st HP Asia Pacific Junior Golf Championship. Notwithstanding the "misread lines" and "horrid putting", which resulted in several lip-outs, the card of 70, overall 12-under, was enough to give him a three-stroke lead over Thailand's Poom Saksansin in Category A. Thailand leapfrogged in the boys' team championship with a 13-shot lead over the hosts while their girls successfully defended the title with a one-stroke win over Chinese Taipei.

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