It's a completely different mindset now: Saqib after his maiden PGTI win

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Bengaluru golfer Syed Saqib Ahmed broke into the PGTI winner's circle after lifting the Cochin Master on February 3.

Bengaluru, February 13: The pressure of getting your first win, laying hands on your first trophy is always the toughest, and also a major stepping stone in a sportsman's life. And once you've pocketed your first win, you've crossed the first major huddle. The first title is like an icebreaker and more will follow suit. And that's exactly what Bengaluru boy Syed Saqib Ahmed felt after lifting his maiden trophy on the PGTI tour, winning the PGTI Cochin Masters.

Having turned professional three years back, in 2015, a win on the tour had eluded the Karnataka pro. The former junior No. 1 in the country had been struggling to hold onto his card ever since he turned pro. Hence, finally breaking into the winner's circle has revived the confidence in the 23-year-old, who is looking at every event ahead of him as a contender.

Each win has its own value, but the first one always holds a different place in one's heart. And a delighted Saqib is a more relieved golfer after clinching the three-stroke victory on February 3. "The first win was obviously very special. I led from the second day itself. Even the first day of the tournament I was second. It was really special for me that after three years I won my first tournament. As a junior I was India no. 1 and as an amateur I was top 3 in India. But as soon as I turned pro I never won any events. So I guess it was really special," said Saqib.

There are always two aspects to one's game - the physical and the mental aspect. And the Bengaluru pro finally struck the chord as he worked on the mental aspect to break the title drought. "I didn't really change anything in my game. I think it was all leading up to this. I've been doing a lot of mental work. But physically I've been doing the same thing that I've always been doing. I've been doing a lot of yoga and meditation and that's what helped me."

Saqib relived a few nervous moments during his final round in Cochin when he bogeyed the 15th and 16th hole. Reflecting back on the final round the winner said, "In Sri Lanka I had almost won my first event in 2016, but because of the 15th hole I lost. The same thing happened in Cochin. I bogeyed 15th and 16th but this time I birdied 17th and 18th to win by three. So the difference I think is that mentally I'm much stronger, and I'm in a better place and I think I can handle myself better on a golf course.

The first few years are the building years, and after turning pro it has been a tough ride for the Bengaluru golfer. "I've always been struggling. Last year I just kept my card on the Indian tour but this year I've already won and I've kept my card for the next three years. Right now I'm going into every event hoping to win. It's a completely different mindset all together now. Now it's just about playing the best I can. I don't have to worry about keeping my card etc. If I can win a few more tournaments this year it would be really special.

With the win Saqib secured a place at the upcoming Indian Open. "I had to win an event before the Indian Open to get into the Indian Open and luckily at the start of the year I won an event. So now I'll get to play my first European tour event. I guess it's lucky that I won just now," signed off Saqib, who has two more events on the tour before the Indian Open.

Story first published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018, 15:44 [IST]
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