Incheon: Udayan Mane, the best Asian finisher at the recent World Amateur Golf Championships in Japan will be hoping to keep up the Indian streak of a medal at each of the last three Asian Games.
India golfer Udayan Mane
The golf competition gets underway at the Dream Park Country Club, where the Indian team practiced in late July.
The big built Mane will have as teammates Feroze Garewal, Samarth Dwivedi and Manu Gandas while the women's team will comprise the well-travelled Aditi Ashok, Astha Madan and Gurbani Singh. Jasjit Singh, a coach at the Delhi Golf Club is the team coach with Raian Irani as the non-playing captain.
Mane is trained by Vijay Divecha, the same coach who has nurtured the likes of Anirban Lahiri a former Asian Games team medallist and now a successful pro on the Asian Tour in professional golf.
Shiv Kapur, now on European and Asian Pro tours, won the individual gold in 2002 in Busan and then the team won silver in 2006 and 2010. Now the four-man squad will be hoping to reach the podium in both individual and team. Indian women have never won an Asian Games medal.
While Mane will be among the contenders for the medal, one of the biggest teen stars in world golf, Guan Tianglang of China, who made the cut as a 14-year-old in 2013 Masters, will lead the field of 72 golfers.
India have won a medal at each of the Asian Games since 2002, when Kapur emerged as the individual champion in Busan, Korea. Four years later at Doha, Qatar, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Lahiri, Chiragh Kumar and Joseph Chakola won a team silver, an effort that was repeated in Guangzhou by Rashid Khan, Abhinav Lohan, Abhijit Chadha and Rahul Bajaj.
Jasjit feels that this young team has potential to finish on the podium in both sections. He said, "Though we have a very young team for the Asiad, we have a very strong chance of podium finish in both the men and women's team events. The players had good rounds of preparation going into the Games and we hope that they will keep up the momentum."
The Indian teams have also featured in Youth Olympics in Nanjing and also played a couple of practice rounds in late July at the Dream Park Country Club, where the event will be held this week.
The Indian players played the World Team Championships in Japan recently and Mane finished tied 13th among individuals. It was the best finish by an Asian player, though Guan did not play the event.
The three players Korea and China fielded at the World Team Championships in Japan will also feature here in Incheon. While China have added Guan, Korea added Kim Young Woong and India added Samarth Dwivedi as the fourth member.
Apart from Korea, China and India, the other teams to look out for will Chinese Taipei, whose Cheng-Tsung Pan, a silver medallist from 2006 is still around. He was also member of the Taipei team at World Amateurs, where they finished 16th, while Korea was 18th, India 29th and China 38th.
Korea, India and Chinese Taipei have finished in that order at the last Asian Games, while Korea have won the last three team titles in women. The last two times, the individual gold, too, has gone to Korea in both sections.
For individual honours, Mane will compete with Guan and South Korean Kim Nam-hun, who won all four major amateur events in Korea.
Among women, Aditi has a lot of experience despite being only 16.
But the big star is likely to be Japanese 15-year-old Minami Katsu who won KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Open in April 2014 making her the youngest winner in the history of the Japanese golf. The Japanese team is known for their short game, and have won seven Asian Games gold medals in golf, before Korea won last two. Chinese woman golfer Shi Yuting is also a strong player.
Golf was introduced in Asian Games in 1982, when India won the gold and silver in individual men's and the team gold. Women's golf was introduced at Asian Games in 1990.
For individual honours, Mane will compete with Guan and South Korean Kim Nam-hun,