NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Jeev Milkha Singh has won the Asian Tour’s order of merit twice, has four wins on the European Tour and is the first Indian golfer to break into world’s top 50, but he feels he will continue to live in his father’s shadow until he wins a major.
More than five decades after Milkha Singh, Jeev’s father, narrowly lost out on the 400m bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the “Flying Sikh” has lost none of his popularity and his Bollywood biopic will hit theatres in July.
“Dad never misses a chance to remind me that whenever we are travelling together, if 100 people mob him for autographs, five approach me,” Jeev told Reuters in a recent interview at the Jaypee Greens golf course on the outskirts of Delhi.
“He introduces me to them saying: ‘He’s my son Jeev. He plays golf.’ I need to win a major to get to that level,” said Jeev, who finished tied ninth in the 2008 PGA Championship.
”Dad’s like a friend but still thinks I‘m a kid. Every other day, he keeps telling me: ‘You won’t succeed unless you practise enough’.
“I tell him ‘Dad, I‘m 42, please stop it! You are like a broken record, you keep repeating the same thing.’ But he doesn’t care,” Jeev said with a grin.
Golf’s inclusion on the 2016 Olympic programme has offered Jeev the chance to go one-up on his father, who fell agonisingly short of winning India’s first Olympic track-and-field medal in Rome.
“Dad has done it (competing in Olympics) 50 years ago. If I can do it, it would be fantastic. And to win a medal would be the icing on the cake,” said Jeev, his eyes lighting up at the prospect.
”This is one of the best things to have happened to us, the golfers. For golf, being in the Olympics is a big boost. More so for Indian golf.
“I have to be in the top 100 that year to qualify,” said Jeev, who is currently ranked 99.
“At 42, it’s a new motivation for me. I’ll be 45 and I think I’d be good enough to go.”
More than grabbing bragging rights in the family, Jeev feels a medal in Rio would help soothe his father’s old wound. Milkha Singh is still rankled by the fourth place finish in Rome.
”Dad still feels bad about it,“ said Jeev. ”He still talks about it, the mistake he made. He thinks he was the fastest.
“That’s the only regret he has in life - that he checked himself in the middle of the race.”
Singh senior’s parents were killed along with other villagers during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition, and his compelling story has been captured in a Bollywood movie.
“It’s a fantastic movie. I hope it goes to the Oscars. It’s that good,” said Jeev.
“You’d cry watching the movie, you’d have goose bumps ... it has got a message. It’s an inspirational movie, not only for a sportsman but for anyone in any profession.” (Editing by Peter Rutherford)