KATHMANDU, Feb 22: Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali once said, “Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are.”
Veteran Nepali professional golfer Deepak Thapa Magar justified Ali´s idea on Thursday as he claimed the title of the CMS Open, the eighth event of the Surya Nepal Golf Tour 2012-13, at the age of 44.
There is another famous quote of Ali - “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”
Thapa proved Ali right again. Thapa, who faltered on the front nine in the final day, bounced back on the back nine on Thursday to claim his first title in the last four years. Thapa shot one-under 66 in the final round at par-67 Royal Nepal Golf Course to top the leader-board with a total of two-under 199.
Thapa had won his last title in 2009, when he had claimed Surya Nepal Eastern Open in Dharan.
He had four-stroke lead over Nepal No 1 Shiva Ram Shrestha before the last round tee-off but he faltered on the very first hole to complete front nine with two-over 35. Shrestha shot three-under 30 on the front nine to take one-stroke lead. However, Thapa Magar shot three-under 31 on back nine against Shrestha´s even-par 34 to win the tournament by two strokes.
"After maintaining lead on the second day, I hoped of winning the tournament but I faltered on front nine today (Thursday). However, I restored my confidence as I shot an eagle on the 13th hole and maintained it," said Thapa Magar.
Thapa Magar had started playing golf at the age of 15.
He learned golf by watching foreigners play at Gauchar (now domestic airport) and he had never dreamt of becoming a top golfer of the country. "As I lived near the golf course, I started practicing golf with wooden sticks and iron rod," recalled Thapa. "I started golf career as a ball boy and then a caddie," he added.
As Thapa recalled, there used to be one-day matches among the amateurs but young talents like him had no chance to participate in such tournaments. "When I excelled in caddie tournaments, the club (RNGC) gave me an opportunity to play an amateur tournament in Mumbai, India in 1992," said Thapa. "Former RNGC President Manindra Raj Shrestha had provided me a golf-set then. It was the first time I had played with proper golf set," he added.
He, then, won Invitational Gold Cup in Bhutan and attended qualifying tournaments for the professional tours in India in 1993.
Thapa Magar, officially, turned pro in the inaugural edition of Surya Masters (then called Surya Nepal Open) in 1993 to ensure Nepal´s representation in the event.
Thapa Magar and fellow pro Deepak Acharya are the only golfers to have participated in all editions of the mega event ever since the inception.
Thapa Magar participated in some professional events in India during the mid 1990s. However, his first professional success came only in 1999, when he claimed the Carlsberg Open Championship.
Thapa Magar, who is the only Nepali golfer to win Surya Masters, has claimed 10 titles in his professional career. With CMS Open victory on Thursday, Thapa Magar, who had won Surya Masters in 2007, became the third Nepali pro to claim 10 titles. Deepak Acharya has won equal number of titles while Shiva Ram Shrestha has 21 titles.
"I´m a steady golfer. I have never gone through any peak time or low time. I have been maintaining my consistency. Meanwhile, my experience is paying me back," said Thapa.
Thapa has been serving at RNGC as the Head Teaching Pro currently. Meanwhile, he has been serving the Nepal Professional Golfers Association as vice president ever since its establishment in 1998.
"More than practicing golf, I´m busy in teaching golf at present," said Thapa Magar, who is busy in teaching young golfers under the Surya Nepal NGA Youth Golf Development Program.