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Dhoni to play charitable golf event in US


Umpire's Post's favourite story of the year is Jeev Milkha Singh. Unlike politics and Bollywood, sports do not necessarily encourage dynasties. Despite being the son of the best opening batsman ever, Rohan Gavaskar had only a fleeting brush with international cricket.

Yuvraj is evidence that it is possible to become a successful one-day batsman despite having a failed Test player for a father. With a hockey player as the father and a basketball player as the mother, Leander Paes earned a formidable reputation in Davis Cup tennis. That is just as well, for one does not know how Jeev Milkha Singh would have fared on the track, with or without shoes. His father remains India's most famous track athlete (apparently, people still call out to the “Flying Sikh" in the street), but the son chose golf.

Jeev started to play at the age of nine when his father took him to the course in Chandigarh and let his son pull his trolley and play a few shots. Soon the son was hooked. He ended up going to college in the US and turned pro in 1993. Jeev showed early promise, winning the NCAA Division II individual golf championship in 1993 when he was less than 22. After winning a few amateur tournaments in the US, he won his first professional title at the 1993 Southern Oklahoma State Open, but he played mainly in Asia, where he was a regular winner in the mid 1990s. In 1997 he finished seventh at the European Tour qualifying school, and joined the tour the following year.

After that, he seemed to lose his way. Until 2006, his best year was 1999. The onset of 2000s brought injury worries, but Jeev broke through in April 2006 by winning the Volvo China Open, and became the second Indian to win on the European Tour after Arjun Atwal.

Since then, there has been no looking back, though there was a barren period of 18 months without a title. In 2007, he became the first Indian golfer to participate in the Masters. But this year, he really came into his own proving that he can hold his own among the world's best. He won four titles that catapulted him to the world ranking of 36, the best an Indian has held.

The 19-month drought ended with the Bank Austria title and Jeev went on to win at the Singapore Open (Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were also there), two tournaments on the Japan Tour, and registered his best performance in Majors after he tied ninth at the PGA Championships, the best by an Indian. The cricket team has won a few enthralling wins, but Jeev is the Indian sportsperson of the year 2008.

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