Making Patna his training ground in the initial days was the first sign that Aman Raj was up for taking a route less travelled.
There was no choice. Growing up in the state capital and with father Shashi Raj Sinha’s roots in the Patna Golf Club, it had to be about embracing what was on offer.
Aman can now talk about the shift to Gurgaon, and how access to superior facilities has played a role in his progress, but back in time moving out of Bihar wasn’t an option.
So, Aman made do with the limited infrastructure but benefitted immensely from his father’s rich experience as a player and coach.
From here was born the steely intent to battle the odds at any cost, and perhaps unknown then, a trait that would hold him in good stead.
A young achiever, Aman flowered, and how. Making waves on the national junior and amateur circuits, he donned the India blazer, and this strengthened the desire every child has at initiation, to play in the professional ranks.
The wish came true in 2016 when Aman qualified to play the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI). The learning was intense but Aman was lucky that the curve wasn’t too steep. The hallowed breakthrough win came within two years in Jaipur, but as is often the case, stepping up all the time and coping with expectations is a bigger challenge.
As the canvas grew with Aman crisscrossing the country and beyond for tournaments on the PGTI and Asian Tour, the horizon broadened too. Coming from the hinterland, dreaming big was what had got Aman this far, and if he envisioned greater glories, he couldn’t be blamed as a man with a silky-smooth swing and razor-sharp short game.
But as Aman was to realise soon that life can be as unpredictable as the sport he had embraced. A fall in the bathroom set him back, and prolonged the wait for the next title.
An oasis called Gurgaon
Next up was the pandemic, which altered scores of lives and did not leave Aman untouched as well. In the midst of the struggle to stay afloat in an environment of disease, death and fear, Aman created an oasis for himself by shifting base to Gurgaon.
Tournaments were still far away but the hours put in across driving ranges and golf courses of the Millenium City helped Aman stay sharp once action commenced at the end of 2020.
Aman was ready to tee off after the forced break, but perhaps the time wasn’t ripe to anoint him champion again. Stiffer tests lay ahead, but in spite of the bad days in a tournament week, getting back to the pristine greens that dot this golfing hub has been the hallmark of his preparations the past few seasons.
Despite the vital shift, home is still where the heart is and Patna continues to tug at the heart strings, and not an opportunity is missed to embrace the family and friends.
Maturing off pain
The ‘W’ continued to elude Aman, and with time he seemed to relent. There were concerns on several fronts, and most of them stemmed from “getting close and watching it slip away”. The reference is to the second win on Tour.
To an outsider, going off the boil was lack of form, and while that was a point, Aman was also playing through pain. It was the wrist, and a time came when teeing off became a laborious task, and he had to pause.
Numerous sessions of physiotherapy and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections became a norm. As golf took a sideline and visits to the physio and rehab talk gained precedence, hope was Aman’s biggest refuge.
The road back
In the cut-throat world of sport, comebacks aren’t easy, but Aman kept faith. The adage, ‘class is permanent, form is temporary’ a right fit, Aman’s fortunes saw an upswing with the start of the current season.
There was light at the end of the tunnel, and the title at Ahmedabad in March brought to an end the wait since September 2018 for the second win on the PGTI. It was a while since Aman put together a couple of low rounds. The reminder was met with a laugh, but beneath the smile Aman was aware he had the wherewithal to do it again.
And again, as he notched the season’s second win at Hyderabad in September.
The material gains have propelled him to No 2 on the PGTI earnings’ list, but Aman says the biggest takeaway from this testing but learning phase is something else.
A man chastened by injuries, the joy of teeing off is cherished now more than ever, “after all this is why one chose golf”, and there is a change in demeanour as well.
Gone is the restlessness, and while Aman retains the youthful energy, there is a monk-like calm. A lot more relaxed, looking too deep into the future is not for him, and that reflects in his approach on the golf course as well — hole by hole, round by round.
If at all there is something he craves for, it is consistency in scores. That should follow after the two wins as the belief is “I’m back to playing the way I used”.
At this hour, a pertinent question is, do accolades define an athlete? They do, but the fierce competitor in Aman is better equipped to handle the high with the focus on “staying in the present”.