Harendra on song, takes sole lead

Harendra Gupta was in the tied 10th spot after the opening day but on Thursday, he came up with eight birdies, which came at the expense of just one bogey, and the sublime seven-under-65 offered him an impressive three-shot lead over his nearest rivals.

Chandigarh's Harendra Gupta emerged as the sole leader after round two of the PGTI Cochin Masters at Nedumbassery on Thursday.   -  Special Arrangement

Harendra Gupta left his village Goraha Bazar in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and moved to Chandigarh many years ago as his dad, a farmer, wanted him to study in a good school. One day, a couple of his friends, who were caddies, took him to the Chandigarh Golf Club for a tournament.

Harendra, then 16, fell for the sport instantly. He took an iron rod, welded a club head to it and began playing golf his own way. He used to play ‘hitting’ competitions with his friends, with bets of Rs 200 or 300, and began winning them regularly. And when he won his first title after becoming a pro, his dad threw a feast for the whole village.

The Chandigarh golfer was in fine nick on Thursday, hitting the green in regulation in almost every hole, and grabbed the lead after round two of the PGTI Cochin Masters at the CIAL Golf Club, Nedumbassery.

The 32-year-old was in the tied 10th spot after the opening day but on Thursday, he came up with eight birdies, which came at the expense of just one bogey, and the sublime seven-under-65 offered him an impressive three-shot lead over his nearest rivals.

“I missed the cut here last year and I was eager to do well this time. My ball-striking has been exceptional today as I’ve hardly missed the greens,” said Harendra, who finished runner-up in a PGTI event in Dhaka last month.

“I changed my irons at the start of the season and I can feel the positive change.”

Mukesh back in contention

Meanwhile, the seasoned Mukesh Kumar, the champion here two years ago, brushed away the bitter memories of last year when he missed the cut and joined Delhi’s Shivendra Singh Sisodia in the second rung with a four-under-68 today.

“My hitting has helped me set up a lot of birdies since round one but my putting has been a big let-down on both days,” said Mukesh.

“However, I enjoy playing in Kochi as I had won here in 2015 before and this round has given me the launch pad for the last two days.”

Chandigarh’s Ajeetesh Sandhu, the joint overnight leader was in the fourth spot while Sudhir Sharma, another opening round leader, was in the tied fifth spot. Defending champion Feroz Ali Mollah of Kolkata was in the tied 16th rung and Bengaluru’s Rahul Gangjee, an Asian Tour regular, was perched on the 36th rung.

The cut went at four-over-148 and 54 players made it to the money rounds. All the three local professionals in the fray — M Anand, K. Madesh and V.S. Vivek — missed the cut.

Leaderboard (after round 2)
  • 135: Harendra Gupta. 138: Shivendra Singh Sisodia, Mukesh Kumar. 139: Ajeetesh Sandhu. 140: M. Dharma, Anura Rohana, Amardip Singh Malik, Aman Raj, Sudhir Sharma, Om Prakash Chouhan. 141: Honey Baisoya.