India’s flag flies high with Atwal’s PGA Tour win

Arjun Atwal did more than win a golf tournament. He may well

have changed how the sport is regarded in India.

”Undoubtedly the biggest thing to happen to Indian golf,” said

Gaurav Ghei, who in 1997 became the first Indian to qualify for the

British Open. ”An achievement that most of us never even dreamt


Atwal captured the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., by

one stroke Sunday. He is India’s first PGA Tour winner and the

first Monday qualifier to win on the tour in 24 years.

Atwal, plagued with injuries the last year, finished at 20-under

260 to win by one stroke. He led by three shots entering the final


He made $918,000 – more than double what he previously earned

this year. The victory allows him to play on the PGA Tour for two


The last qualifier to win on the tour was Fred Wadsworth at the

1986 Southern Open. Atwal had to play his way into the Wyndham

after losing his tour card last month because he was too low on the

money list when his medical exemption ran out. He had injured his

shoulders weightlifting.

”I do remember Atwal saying that he wanted to win on the PGA

Tour,” said Ghei, who has three Asian Tour titles since turning

pro in 1991. ”Hats off to him for sticking it out in the U.S. on

his own and doing it. It was a proud moment to see the Indian flag

flying high. I hope this acts as a springboard for the game


Brandon De Souza, who has organized most of the golf tournaments

in India the past two decades, called it a conquest of the ”last


”Indians had already won on the Asian, European and Japanese

tours, but this is a new high,” De Souza said. ”I hope the

government and sponsors realize the enormity of this achievement

and think beyond cricket.”

Atwal’s long climb extended beyond the golf course. Three years

ago, a driver trying to race him down a street in Orlando Fla.,

died in a crash. Atwal was cleared of wrongdoing, but the yearlong

investigation exacted took a toll.

Gaganjeet Bhullar, a promising 22-year-old player on the Asian

Tour, suspects the face of Indian golf is likely to shift with

Atwal’s victory. He thinks the victory might result in more player


”It could change the careers of Indian golfers and the way we

look at the game,” he said. ”With Indians doing well on other

circuits, it was long overdue and comes as a welcome relief for us.

I saw the match live on television and was thrilled at the way he

managed a par on the last hole.”