Shubhankar Sharma has become the first Indian to win the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year after finishing tied-41st at the DP World Tour Championship on Sunday.
The rising star, 22, cemented his place as the top-ranked newcomer in the Race to Dubai by coming home 28th for the season overall, keeping him clear of rivals Lucas Herbert and Sam Horsfield.
“It’s great, you can only do it once in your career, so I’m very happy,” Sharma said despite a final-round 80 that pulled him back to 2-under for the tournament - 16 shots behind winner Danny Willett. “To be honest I didn’t even know about it until a few weeks ago. It’s great, and it’s definitively something that I’ll cherish.”
Sharma was the overwhelming favourite for the rookie award coming into the week, with Herbert and Horsfield needing top-three finishes, and for the frontrunner to finish close to last, to stand any chance.
It caps a wonderful debut season for Sharma, who announced his arrival in professional golf by winning the co-sanctioned Jo’Burg Open last December. The victory earned him his European Tour card for the year.
Then in February, Sharma triumphed at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia, and went on to record top-10 finishes at the WGC-Mexico Championship, Hero Indian Open and last month’s CIMB Classic.
“To win twice, on any tour, in a single year is great,” he said. “I got off to a great start in South Africa and I capitalised on that. And again, in Malaysia, that was special, as well.
“I had a few more opportunities after that, but just to win twice and just to learn so much on this tour with the best players in the world, I would say I had a great year.”
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Sharma was playing his 11th consecutive week, and had a nasty blister on his left heel to emphasis his gruelling schedule. There is no let up, though, as he heads to Hong Kong to compete this week. Currently, Sharma tops the Asian Tour Order of Merit by US$134,000 (Dh492,000) with six events remaining.
Asked to look past that and about his expectations for on Europe's lead circuit next year, Sharma said: “Nothing for now. Not really thinking too much about it. The European Tour doesn't give you that much of a break. [The new season] starts next week.
“Next year will bring more things, more challenges, but the only good thing is that most of the courses now are not going to be new to me since I've played all of them at least once. So that is definitely going to help, and I'll try to do my best next year, as well.”