- Associated Press - Saturday, July 21, 2012

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, ENGLAND (AP) - Anirban Lahiri had already made history at this year’s British Open before he stepped up to the ninth tee in the third round.

With one swing of his 9-iron, he put himself in the record books again.

The 25-year-old Indian, making his Open debut, made the first hole in one of the 2012 tournament Saturday when he aced the par-3 No. 9 from 150 yards, the ball landing to the right of the cup and bouncing in.

A grinning Lahiri raised both hands in the air and gave a bow. The shot was played in front of his father, making the moment all the more sweet.

“It was looking a little right of the hole, but it got a really, really friendly bounce. When it goes in, everybody goes wild. I go wild. It was fantastic,” said Lahiri, who shot a 70 to remain at par for the tournament.

“You’re just looking around. You don’t know how to express yourself, and then you see your dad jumping up out there blowing you kisses. These moments don’t come every day.”

It was his third hole in one in tournament play. He was convinced to use the 9-iron after going with a wedge on that hole during the second round and finding the bunker.

“It takes the cake,” Lahiri said. “It’s a hallowed event for us. You come out here and you just want to play your best. You want to put up a good performance for yourself, for your country.”

It’s a special time for Indian golf.

With Bangalore-based Lahiri and mentor Jeev Milkha Singh both making the cut at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, it is the first time two Indians are playing a weekend at the same major.

This comes on the back of Singh’s memorable win at the Scottish Open last week, when he rallied from five shots back on the final day to beat Francesco Molinari in a playoff. The victory lifted him to 87th in the world.

The golf scene back home is thriving, with the Professional Golf Tour of India _ formed in 2006 _ now with 30 tournaments on the calendar. Prize money has soared by around 250 percent in the six years, with two events co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Avantha Masters in New Delhi sanctioned by both the European and Asian Tours.

“In India, cricket is a religion and that takes away from any other sport, but I think golf is probably No. 2 or 3 in terms of interest,” the 226th-ranked Lahiri said. “It’s growing _ it’s going to take a bit of time _ but what I’ve done here and Jeev’s win last week and any good performance in a major just helps the game at home to move forward.

“That’s what we are trying to do. We need to lift the profile of golf in India.”

Lahiri said India has “eight or nine really good courses” that would be able to hold an international tournament given the right preparation time.

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