Arjun Atwal the 450th ranked player in the world won the Wyndham Championship this past weekend on the PGA Tour. It is noteworthy and historic for several reasons. First, Atwal is the First Indian born player to win on the PGA Tour. India is an Emerging Economy with over one billion people and this win will have a significant impact on the growth of the game there. Frank Nobilo of the Golf Channel claims the win is probably more historic than Isao Aoki winning the Hawaiian Open in the 1983. As a note, Isao is the first and only Japanese born player to win on the PGA Tour.
Second, Atwal is not even an official member of the PGA Tour; in fact, he had to “Monday Qualify” to get into the event. He is the first player in 24 years to Monday qualify (Medalist) to gain entry into the event and then go on to win it. Like a lot of players without status on one tour or another, they need to travel far and wide in order to find places to play and to make a living. Atwal has been spending most of his time this season playing anywhere he could including; the Nationwide, European and PGA Tours.
Finally, it just goes to show how competitive professional golf has become on a global basis. Here is a player who is ranked 450th in the world, is not even a member of the PGA Tour. He has to “Monday Qualify” just to get a spot in the tournament; he wins the qualifier as the Medalist, then goes on to win the event.
You have to love a sport where this can happen on occasion and make dreams come true. It is hard to say what the immediate impact will be on Indian Golf. However, for some perspective let’s consider this. Isao Aoki won an event on the PGA in 1983 and it would have a big impact on Japanese Golf. Ryo Ishikawa the current Japanese Golf Superstar recently shot a 58 on a Japanese Tour event at the ripe old age of 18. Ryo was not even born until 1991; eight years after Aoki’s historic win. It has been almost thirty years and no other Japanese Golfer has won an event on the PGA Tour. I am not saying it will take another thirty years before a payer from India wins again. However, it does make you stop and think how long it takes these developing countries to produce world class players capable of winning on the premier tour in men’s golf. It also frames the historic nature of what Atwal just achieved.