ORLANDO, Fla. — Sahith Theegala, whose humble public golf course roots, unpretentious mien and close to victory eventually month’s Waste Administration Phoenix Open have made him a rising younger star on the PGA Tour, ended his spherical on Thursday with a dispiriting three-putt bogey.
Theegala, an Indian American from California and the uncommon nonwhite participant on the tour, had hoped for higher than a one-over par 73 in his debut on the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The frustration was plain on his face as he exited the ultimate inexperienced. However after a number of steps, Theegala, 24, broke right into a smile as he graciously approached two volunteers who had accompanied him as scorekeepers for the earlier 18 holes in stiflingly sizzling circumstances.
“Thanks to your assist and for coming alongside as we speak,” he stated as he shook fingers with them.
The gesture was an apt near the scene on the primary tee hours earlier, when Theegala politely clapped as his enjoying companions had been launched to followers earlier than their opening photographs. It’s unusual, if not unheard-of, for skilled golfers to applaud their rivals earlier than a spherical, particularly on the recreation’s elite stage.
However a part of the winsome, budding Theegala phenomenon enveloping the PGA Tour this season is tied to his authenticity. He nonetheless lives at dwelling along with his mother and father, who emigrated from India of their 20s. Till he flew to Florida this week, he spent the last few weeks driving his 2015 Volkswagen Passat 2,000 miles up and down California after which to Arizona to play in 5 tour occasions and by no means missed the minimize in any match. Within the Phoenix occasion, he was tied for the lead within the last spherical with two holes remaining earlier than a nasty bounce on a sterling tee shot value him dearly and dropped him right into a tie for third.
If that gutsy efficiency for a tour rookie had not already gained over many golf followers, a video posted on Twitter shortly after the occasion that confirmed Theegala crying on his mom Karuna’s shoulders earned him extra admirers.
The 6-foot-3 Theegala additionally has scoliosis, which causes what he referred to as, “a reasonably large bend to the fitting.” That might clarify his considerably unorthodox swing. The situation doesn’t trigger Theegala ache. “I simply can’t transfer in sure methods,” he stated.
As a toddler studying golf on a dusty substandard municipal course close to his dwelling in Southern California, Theegala tailored his placing stroke by tilting his head to the fitting so he may see the suitable line from the ball to gap. The profile of his distinctive stance on a placing inexperienced nonetheless stands out from 100 yards away.
It explains why Theegala, a former junior champion and the winner of three school golfer of the 12 months awards at Pepperdine, had a decent-sized gallery following him throughout Thursday’s first spherical. Theegala had an eventful day with three birdies and 4 bogeys as followers shouted his first title as encouragement, even when they typically didn’t pronounce it appropriately.
It’s “SAW-hith” — the second syllable rhymes with “pith.” Theegala understands the confusion. Apart from, it has its benefits. He can all the time inform the place his shut family and friends members are in match crowds as a result of they shout his title appropriately.
In a brief period of time on the tour, he has climbed to forty second within the season-long FedEx Cup rankings. He’s lengthy off the tee — he recurrently out-drove his enjoying companions Russell Henley and Troy Merritt on Thursday — and his quick recreation has a mixture of finesse and ingenuity outlined with one phrase: contact.
Each golfer, longs to have contact.
For his half, Theegala finds the newfound consideration he’s receiving satisfying, albeit amusing.
“I’m an introvert by nature,” he stated with a smile as he walked from the apply vary after Thursday’s spherical.
That trait shouldn’t be paradoxical to Theegala, who performs earlier than 1000’s standing close by and lots of extra watching on tv.
“You hear about the very best performers on the earth — singers and dancers — who’re actually huge introverts,” he stated. “Nevertheless it’s completely different while you get on the stage. After I’m within the act of enjoying golf, I don’t even take into consideration the folks watching.”
Theegala is conscious, nonetheless, that as an Indian American he’s seen in another way in a sport that has by no means made it simple for nonwhite gamers to ascend to the best skilled stage.
“I’m positively pleased with my Indian heritage and I hope I’m inspiring different Indian People and folks in India to know that they’ll compete in sports activities,” he stated. “It’s clearly not the principle function of being on the market but it surely’s an ancillary impact of what we’re doing and I’m all for it.
“I do consider the panorama is altering.”
Theegala smiled. His three-putt on the ultimate gap already appeared like a distant reminiscence. For such a vexing recreation, he’s routinely sedate on the golf course.
“Yeah, clearly, it helps that I’ve been enjoying the very best golf of my life within the final six or seven months,” he stated with fun. “That all the time helps, proper? I don’t need to be too onerous on myself.”