Over the TOP: Driving Pleasure

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New Delhi | Published: September 23, 2018 1:38:21 AM

With more power and less precision, the Superb Golfer laps the field at the India finals of the Audi Quattro Cup in Hua Hin.

Lady pro Tvesa Malik dispatches the ball deep down the 10th fairway at the Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin, Thailand

Quaffing his pre-dawn coffee, the Superb Golfer sits in a lounge chair on a third-floor balcony of a tony resort in Hua Hin, Thailand. In the distance, the sun makes an appearance, illuminating the azure waters of the Gulf of Thailand; restless waves pound the shore, just a quality nine-iron from the Superb Golfer’s perch. Most golfers wouldn’t be able to gauge the complex crosswind blowing in from the ocean, but with remarkable acuity, the Superb Golfer knows exactly how a mere alteration of the angle of approach would punch the ball below the sea breeze, and his classic draw would hold the ball steadfastly on line. The Superb Golfer considers reconfirming his assessment by hitting one out there, but decides to trust his mind’s eye instead. It’s the India Final of the Audi Quattro Cup and the Superb Golfer must save his best for the course.

The golfing mind roused and revved up, the Superb Golfer scrolls through his video playlist and decides on coach Pete Cowen for the morning tip of the day. When Cowen starts talking, the Superb Golfer’s hair stands on end: the tip is a driving analogy of the golf swing: “…the lower body is the engine of the swing, the arms-hands-club unit is the steering wheel, and the shoulders provide the mechanism that connects the two. All have to work together in the golf swing so you can drive the car,” says Cowen. It’s a portent, if there ever was one, and the Superb Golfer diligently visualises his body steering the ball from tee to green, bending it both ways, taking lines other golfers can’t dream of. Much like Ben Hogan back in the day, the Superb Golfer fixates on his rhythm. Slowly, he ties his shoelaces, makes a smooth transition out of the hotel and drives to the course calmly and without rushing from the top.

On the first tee of the Banyan Golf Club, the gem in Hua Hin’s golfing firmament, there’s a gleaming red Audi parked on the championship tee. The participants in the event, winning teams from the tourney’s regional events across India, crowd around the sedan. The Superb Golfer notes, mind solely on the game, that the course isn’t set up to be played from the tips.

Presently, his playing partner, Rahil Ansari, country head, Audi India, comes along. “If you really want to make the most of an on-course car display, then make the car a moveable hazard and place it on the ladies tee in front of the tee, not behind it,” he proffers to Ansari. Ansari looks a bit bewildered and shakes his head inscrutably. The Superb Golfer is used to the reaction; his thoughts on golf can be too complex for most people to comprehend immediately.

On the course, Ansari appears to be a rank amateur, duly bogeying most of the holes on the front nine. That eyewash would fool most, but not the Superb Golfer who knows, from the glint in Ansari’s eye while putting, that the man has a finely-tuned killer instinct. He’s seen this look on members of the Delhi Golf Club who’ll shoot ten-over-par on the front nine and then two-under on the back when the bets come on. You don’t drive to the top of the corporate ladder by not being able to sync the arm-club unit with the lower body. This man can play.

“The Quattro Cup has been incredibly successful,” says Ansari. “We’ve had people actually buy our cars just to be invited for the tournament,” he adds. The Superb Golfer concedes that there may be some truth in Ansari’s spiel. His reasoning is different from Ansari’s: golfers do make life decisions based on the game. Buying a car to get into a golf tournament might sound ludicrous to others, but to golfers it’s the obvious thing to do.

On the 10th tee, a singularly diabolic plot to unnerve the participants has been hatched—players are confronted with the sight of a lady golfer, driver in hand. Tvesa Malik is no ordinary hacker either: the lady pro with a well-grooved smile welcomes the group and challenges them to outdrive her. It’s a ploy that the Superb Golfer, with his intimate knowledge of Machiavelli’s art of war, is well-versed with. Attack the male ego and a worthy adversary can be reduced to a vulnerable weakling. The tactic employed here is to put players in a dilemma, where they must choose between course strategy and machismo.

The Superb Golfer is faced with a moral predicament, which goes deeper: should he hit long and straight down the left side of the fairway as planned, and risk leaving a scar on the psyche of a promising young player? Or should he magnanimously allow Malik to save face? Matters of honour and pride are difficult. You can’t learn about these in books, but are plainly apparent when, tournament on the line, you’re faced with a tee shot that you must not stripe. The Superb Golfer, with his exemplary strength of character, takes aim just right of the fairway and lets it fly. He can’t control his prodigious distance off the tee, but makes sure that the ball steers clear of the fairway. “For the good of the game,” he soliloquises, patting himself on a job well done. Tee to rough, the Superb Golfer’s consistency when it comes to driving, is unrivalled.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game

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