KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 (Reuters) - Indian golfer Jyoti Randhawa will be hard at work at the driving and shooting ranges in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics, his ever-improving proficiency with a rifle leaving him dreaming of an unlikely double gold medal haul.
“Wow, that would be nice. Gold in golf and gold in shooting and then I can retire,” the 39-year-old, smiling at the thought, told Reuters in an interview at the Malaysian Open before he went out to shoot an opening round six-under 66.
Golf has been the New Delhi-native’s career since he turned professional in 1994 but, thanks to his father, shooting has been a long standing passion which is fast dominating his attention.
“It is something I have been doing all my life because my father was in the army so I shot a lot of weapons and I just enjoy shooting,” the tall, lean Randhawa explained.
“I go shoot with these national shooters. I shoot skeet, trap and then I go shoot rifles on the targets. I just went and qualified for this shooting championship.”
‘This shooting championship’ was in fact India’s national championship and although Randhawa failed to trouble the elite marksman, he took enough confidence from the experience to believe he has, with practice, a future in the sport.
“I will be shooting three times this year, that will be after May, June so hopefully I can get my scores up there.”
While his father’s tutelage has obviously helped him become a competitive shot, the Indian said the similarities between his two sports have made the transition easier.
”I just think it is so close to golf because you need so much focus and concentration to be able to place that bullet 300 yards into a nine inch gap to get 10 points.
“There was a lot of stress in (shooting) competition but I have done that all my life. I have handled stress and competition pressure in golf so it is easier for me to handle in shooting especially if it is to do with mental stress and pressure so it is very similar.”
While Randhawa’s fame has grown through the capturing of eight Asian Tour titles and becoming the first Indian to win the circuit’s Order of Merit crown as best golfer in 2002, his emergence in the shooting world has raised his profile higher.
Shooting is one of the fastest-growing sports in India and an unprecedented 11 shooters will represent the country at the London Olympics later this year.
The double trap silver Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won at Athens in 2004 triggered its spurt, before Abhinav Bindra claimed the 10 metre air rifle event in Beijing to become the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold.
“It added colour to shooting because a professional golfer coming into shooting it was in the papers and I was carrying a gun and seen shooting and they were covering me on TV and they were covering me on radio,” Randhawa said.
“So I got a lot of coverage which I‘m happy about, shooting got a lot of coverage because of me coming into shooting which was great for both of us.”
Success on the golf course has dwindled in recent years and his last tournament win came more than three years ago but two top-20 finishes in recent tournaments offer hope he can regain his place as India’s number one.
However, Randhawa conceded that time was running out on that aim.
“Five, eight years down the line I don’t think I will be playing golf that long so shooting is very close to my heart and I think I will pursue that,” he said.
”The seniors tour won’t be that serious, it will be just to make money, have a bit of fun golfing, but definitely shooting will be there.
“But frankly speaking, it is very tough to be able to perform at Olympic level in two sports because both take a lot out of you. But you know, if I know myself, I won’t be very far off.”
(Editing by John O‘Brien)