Vinod: Golfing role model | Sunday Observer

Vinod: Golfing role model

Vinod Weerasinghe
Vinod Weerasinghe

When young Vinod Weerasinghe clinched the boys’ title at the 11th Sri Lanka Junior Open Golf Championships at the Royal Colombo Golf Club it was his third consecutive win marking a stunning victory for the youngster.

His amazing prowess at golf won him a scholarship to the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, USA and the young champ is now busy targeting the forthcoming golf season in the USA.

The Sunday Observer caught up with this emerging golfing star, who first swung a golf club at the age of four years, in an interview. He was ranked the top junior player in the years 2016 to 2018 and ranked 15th in the Junior Tour of Asia 2017.

Q: You have been the National Junior Golf Champion for three years. How did you achieve this feat and how do you feel about it?

A: Winning three national championships took much hard work, dedication and discipline. For about a year before my first championship, I had been going through a severe slump in form. I had to change things, from my mentality to my work ethic.

Eventually, after persisting for many long months, I was able to win another Junior Tournament in early 2016 which gave me a ton of confidence to win my first National Championship later that year. It was just a huge relief for me, feeling that all that hard-work paid off and it was amazing to see the huge crowd, my father included, watching me succeed finally.

As for the other two that followed, I continued to work hard but looked at it as a chance to improve my game and break some records. It’s always a proud feeling to win a championship from your home country and it feels amazing to set an example for the juniors who play the game.

Q: What made you take to golf?

A: It was really by chance. My dad took me to the range one day and I started whacking some golf balls and I really enjoyed it.

Q: What was your first overseas golf tourney and where and when was it? Did you win any events? How did you feel on winning your first overseas tournament?

A: My first overseas tournament was representing Sri Lanka at the Asia-Pacific Junior Golf Championships in Kolkata in 2013. I played horribly but ended up winning a Nett prize because of my ridiculously high handicap at the time. It was an awesome experience seeing how talented and competitive players from around the world were.

For me, it was a real eye opener to see the standards I needed to reach to be considered a top level player and the experience of playing for my country left me wanting to prove myself to get another chance.

Q: You now play golf in the USA, what similarities and differences are there as opposed to playing on Sri Lankan courses?

A: I play golf for the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, America. American golf courses have a very different type of grass. Most of the courses there are incredibly challenging compared to what we have back home. There’s just so much variety as opposed to the pretty standard courses we have back home, like the massive slopes on the greens.

Q: Who are your role models in golf?

A: Tiger Woods will always be my idol. Putting aside his controversies, his work ethic, pure discipline and his unparalleled hunger to be the best is inspiring for me. I also really love Jason Day, as he’s just an amazing human being and I love his story because of the tough life he lived through on his way to becoming the best in the world.

Q: How many hours of practice do you put in a week?

A: Around three hours everyday with my College team and another hour on my own. We also play on the course for qualifying on three days during the week, which is four hours a round.

Q: What is your favourite form of play and favourite club?

A: I love the intensity of match play. It is the purest form of golf and really brings out the best in you. I have definitely played my best golf in match play and the intensity can be unmatched against any other form of play.

My favourite club is between my driver and an 8 iron. I love my driver because I like hitting it far and the 8 iron because it’s my most versatile club.

Q: How has playing golf helped you in life?

A: It has helped in many aspects. Golf has taught me a lot of patience and that if you want to achieve anything in life you need good vision, a game plan and the desire to succeed. It has also taught to me to never be afraid of failure, because it is just the way life works and that you learn the most from failure.

Q: Who are the people who have helped you to succeed at golf?

A: There are way too many. My father, Chandana, for his constant support and for being a force in keeping me on track with my goals. My mother, Que Phuong, for her motivation and care. Both of them along with my sister Umeda, are my biggest supporters and will always be there for me.

Coach Bamby Randhawa from Bangalore helped revive my love for the game when I wanted to give up.

My current coach Shane for taking me to the next level and for all the big plans we’ve laid down for the future. I love the community of RCGC, whether it be our lovely members, or the caddies, greens keepers, waiters and everyone in between for encouraging and supporting me through my golfing endeavours. My national and College teammates who keep pushing me to be the best! All the players I’ve played against abroad and learnt from.

Q: What about your diet?

A: I follow a pretty strict diet that changes between pre-season, in-season and off-season. It is very high carbohydrates and high protein, moderate fat because we are burning so much walking on the golf course and doing physical activities. Involves a lot of rice and meat, tons of fruit and veg to stay healthy. In-season we eat the most calories because we are playing so much golf.

Q: What are your future ambitions as a golfer?

A: I want to be a professional golfer and play on the European tour or the PGA tour someday.

Q: In Sri Lanka golf is generally seen as a game of the elite. What have you got to say about this? How can golf be improved in Sri Lanka?

A: It can be looked at in a number of ways. To an extent yes, golf can be seen as a game of the elite as it is not a cheap sport. Often people look at sports like golf as very exclusive and posh, also looking at it as a constant business opportunity.

At the same time, it’s good to note that all our professional golfers on tour hail from the under privileged background and pretty much all our national amateur pool players are not well-off either.

For the more leisurely and corporate side of golf in Sri Lanka, yes it is a game of the elite but the sporting professional side of it can be dominated by anyone who is willing to be determined and work hard with whatever little they have, for example Mithun Perera and Anura Rohana.

Golf in Sri Lanka could be improved with more government support for the game. Possibly more funding and sponsors to have more tournaments and opportunities for the game to grow.

Also, Sri Lanka golf should invest more in their juniors and younger amateurs who actually have a chance to turn professional. More priority should be given to younger amateurs to play abroad and represent the country, so that we gain more exposure and experience to keep improving.

Older amateurs have the ambition to turn pro due to their age and other commitments, as opposed to the younger guys who have more time ahead to make it happen.

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