Chaitanya Pandey finds the present time most appropriate to celebrate the anniversary of his triumph at the European Championship held in Scotland last year.
With the world in lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the casualties has been sports which had to take a back seat due to government-imposed travel restrictions and new laws on social distancing. Golf has been one of the sports most affected with courses shut up.
One such golfer has been rising Indian star 8-year-old Chaitanya Pandey, whose meteoric rise to the top of his sport has been halted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the boy who has been compared to a young Tiger Woods, and who been described by the Indian Minister of Sport, Kiren Rijuju, as part of India’s future and one of the world’s best young players has time on his side, and it will not be long before he is striding the fairways and the greens again on the way to yet another brilliant title win.
In the meantime, celebrating his European win anniversary, it seems an appropriate time to relive some golden memories when Chaitanya travelled to Longniddry in Scotland last year, and returned home triumphant with the European Championship in his possession.
Chaitanya Pandey went to Scotland as one of the youngest in a glittering field of featuring competitors from Asia, Africa, South America and Europe, as well as the substantial home-based contingent.
And, for many of them, the Longniddry course, which is famed for its difficulty, posed a unique set of challenges with hundreds of trees lining the course, deep bunkers and the adverse weather conditions.
And Chaitanya Pandey certainly had to contend with all that the famous old course could throw at him over the three days of the tournament. Friday was the best day weather-wise and Chaitanya took full advantage scoring a superb 30, which was 6 under par for the 9-hole course, enough to earn him a share of the lead with one of his closest rivals from Thailand.
On Saturday, things got tougher and Chaitanya could only score a par 36, still highly respected in the circumstances, but with Thailand rival managing a two-under-par score, Chaitanya had slipped to second in the overall standings.
However, the final day Sunday was to prove decisive. Not only were the conditions difficult again, particularly playing shots into the wind and heavy rain, but pressure also began to play its part, particularly in the case of Thai rival who shot six over par to end his chances. Chaitanya meanwhile kept his nerve and composure superbly, continued to find the fairways from the tee, and made sure that his putting was up to its usual brilliant best.
He shot par again, the third-best round of the day, and enough to give him a marvellous and thoroughly deserved victory by two shots from the South African Lex Foxcraft. It was the biggest success of his fledgeling career to date and made him the youngest Indian to win the European title.
Typically modest after his record-breaking win, Chaitanya was quick to praise those who had helped him achieve such success at an early age, including his coach Romit Bose and Aditya Sachdeva who prompted him to play golf, the Delhi Golf Club, especially its President, Mr RS Bedi and Captain, Rohit Sabherwal, and his school K R Mangalam World School. Above all though, his gratitude was reserved for his parents without whose tireless support and devotion, none of his achievements would be possible.
Since then he has won a number of major events maintaining his pole position in India in Indian golf Union merit list, US Kids Golf India and finished third in the Kids’ World Championship in Malaysia.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he will not get a chance to defend his European title this year that has had to be postponed for a year, along with many of the other major championships in the United States he was due to compete in later this year, including the IMG World, FCG Callaway, and US Kids’ World Championships, which were all scheduled to be staged in the USA.
However, when play does resume, it is a certainty that Chaitanya will once again be amongst the favourites to win all the big titles.