Happiest doing what I do, blessed to be appreciated for that and honoured to be doing it for the nation and the sport! Golf is my life!!

This is Shubhankar Sharma’s bio on Twitter. Golf, he says, is his life. But golf happened to him in a serendipitous manner. None of his family members were avid golfers. His mother’s obstetrician was Tushar Lahiri, father of celebrated Indian golf pro Anirban Lahiri. He asked Shubhankar’s father Retired Colonel Mohan Sharma to bring him to the course. He might not have known, then, that he was planting a seed for a career that’s now seeing rapid growth.

A seven-year-old Shubhankar took to the sport quickly. Like most kids growing up at the turn of the new millennium in India, Shubhankar, too, played cricket or football after school. But golf, to him, was different. In March, he had told the Associated Press, “[Golf] is what appealed to me. When I was 12 or 13, I knew I was going to be a professional golfer.”

Mohan Sharma retired from the Army to be with his son, still a teenager, on tours. Shubhankar turned pro at 16, joining the Asian Development Tour. He finished fourth in the Panasonic Open India, a 2014 Asian Tour event.

The next couple of years, Shubhankar’s rise on the Asian tour was swift and steady. 2017 was his year of reckoning. He finished fourth in the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open and in the top-10 in the Maybank Championship, a tournament sanctioned by the European Tour. In November, he finished in the top-10 of the UBS Hong Kong Open. These tournaments got him ready for the European tour.

On several occasions in his still fledgling career, Shubhankar has showed that he can conjure his best under pressure. In his first season as pro, he had two tournaments left to earn enough money for a full card on the Asian Tour. In the final round of the Manila Masters, he shot 62 to tie for fourth and lock up his card. At the end of his first full season, he shot 61 in the second round of the Jo’burg Open and went on to win the event.

Recalling his performance in the Malaysian Open, compatriot Anirban told AP, “He got off to a rough start, hung in there and managed to finish in the top 10. I was really impressed with his grit. He’s got a really stable head on his shoulders. And the best thing about his golf is he can really go low. He’s not scared to make birdies in bunches.”

In March this year, Shubhankar went to his first World Golf Championship as the world No 75, the highest ranked Indian. Shubhankar was ranked outside top-500 by the end of 2016 and outside top-200 by the end of 2017.

This impressive rise is not just a by-product of rich talent, according to Lahiri. “He’s a really good kid. He comes from a humble background,” he said. “He’s kind of like myself – Army brats. We didn’t have all the luxurious equipment or facilities. We’re grinders.”

When he went to say hello to golfing great Phil Mickelson at the Championship, the latter ignored him, mistaking him for a pesky journalist.

“Me and my caddie went up to [Mickelson]. He thought we were media and he said, ‘Not right now, after the round,’” Shubhankar told Golf Channel. “Then he just realised and said, ‘So sorry, I thought you were media.’ He said, ‘Hi.’ I said, ‘Hi.’ Then he made a few putts and he came back to me and said, ‘Have a good day.’ It was nice.”

But his performance in the tournament he finished tied ninth after leading the second and third rounds has certainly made the golfing world sit up and take notice of him.