Jeev Milkha Singh has revealed – in the latest My Time, in partnership with Rolex video – one of the biggest decisions of his golf career involved a phone call to his parents in the early 1990s.
While excelling on the golf team at Abilene Christian University in the United States he felt the call of the professional game but needed clearance from family HQ back in his hometown of Chandigarh, in India.
“Had to make a big call; picked up the phone and spoke to my parents,” says the Indian star, who turns 49 today.
“My dad said: ‘you know what, please go ahead, but don’t come back to me after five or 10 years and tell me you want to do something else’. They obviously gave me the right guidance.”
It was a wise move by Singh seeing as his father, Milkha Singh, is arguably India’s greatest sprinter and his mother, Nirmal Kaur, a former captain of the Indian women’s volleyball team.
“Actually we wanted to make him a doctor,” says Milkha Singh.
“He said: ‘no I want to play golf’. [I said] If you want to play golf then you have to work day and night. I want to see you number one in the world!”
While the young Singh didn’t quite reach that target he more than justified his decision to turn professional by winning the Asian Tour Order of Merit title twice, claiming five titles on the Asian Tour, and four on both the European Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organization.
Singh was introduced to the game of golf at the age of nine by his father and later earned a golf scholarship in America after representing the Indian national team.
He says: “My inspiration growing up was my father. Lots of people in India said: ‘you come from the Milkha family, you have a lot of pressure’.”
He turned professional in 1993, never looked back and became the flag bearer for Indian golf.
“Everybody asked me: ‘hey, do you guys play golf in India?’. I said: ‘yes we do’, and they said: ‘oh, we didn’t know that’. And I said you know what, let’s show them that there are good golfers out of India,” adds Singh.
“But if I played in Italy I needed an Italian visa, or Spain a Spanish visa. And in France I needed one there. Some weeks I had to miss because I couldn’t get a visa in time. But nothing comes easy, you have to take it in your stride.”
He suffered a loss of form mid-way through his career but bounced back by winning the Volvo China Open in 2006.
“I had a fantastic start but then a dip for five or six years. In those five, six years I learned a lot.
I was going through a bad patch. I had not won a tournament from 2000 to 2006, so six years of drought. Golf is a game very close to human life becauase you go through the ups and downs. One week you are the best and the next you don’t even make the cut,” adds Singh.
“Took the plunge in 1993 and loved it ever since!”