HOUSTON – Sixteen-year-old Kinkaid High School sophomore golfer Jaivir Pande spends three or four hours a day practicing, and that’s just weekdays. On a “good weekend,” that number climbs to seven or eight.
Climbing is something Jaivir Pande’s family and their home country are familiar with. Born in the United States to Nepali parents, Pande spent every summer traveling back to Nepal to spend time with his family. In Nepal, Pande picked up golf by playing with his grandfather, Gaurav Rana. Rana is an influential military officer in the small country, once acting as Nepal’s Army Chief of Staff.
Rana took his grandson out to the golf course when Jaivir turned 5. By the time Pande was 9, he was already besting his grandfather.
“I watch videos of his swing when I’m struggling on the course,” says Rana.
Golf in Nepal is relatively new. The country discovered the sport in 1917, on a diplomatic expedition by a delegation from the Prime Minister at the time. Part of the delegation included Gaurav Rana’s grand uncle, who is credited with bringing the sport to Nepal. Golf is literally in Jaivir’s blood.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but my family, they’ve really made me realize what this opportunity is,” said Pande. “It would mean a lot to me to go on to play professionally.”
Nepal has no touring professional golfers. Not on the PGA Tour, European Tour, or even smaller world tours like the Asian Tour and Sunshine Tour (South Africa), although some golfers are trying to qualify in Asia.
A week before Hideki Matsuyama captured Japan’s first major, Pande won the Drive, Chip and Putt Tournament at Augusta. Though representing Houston, when Pande took his first swing at the vaunted golf course, he became the first person of Nepali descent to play Augusta National.
“It was everything and beyond I could have possibly ever imagined,” said his father Sabra Pande.
After scoring 9/10 on both the drive and chip disciplines, Jaivir Pande hit his first putt close enough to leave 4 feet, 8 inches to win.
Jaivier Pande holed the putt.
“It was so gratifying because I worked very hard preparing for that tournament,” said Jaivier Pande.
Now, at his home course the Westwood Country Club, other members ask him for selfies. The 16-year-old is not only a celebrity at home. His home country follows his every move.
“All of the golfers in Nepal watch his progress,” says his grandfather.
Next, Jaivir Pande has an important summer of junior tournaments. He hopes to make an impression on top golf schools with strong academics.
For Jaivir Pande, his summit is not at the top of any mountain. It’s at the bottom of the cup.