India’s Divyanshu Bajaj on Tuesday holed an ace en route to a fine seven-under 65 to lie one shot behind the leader, German Michael Hirmer after the opening round of the KGA Challenge, the second of the two-week Indian swing of the European Challenge.
It was not just Bajaj, young southpaw Kartik Sharma and Mari Muthu shot six-under 66 each to be placed tied fifth as Aman Raj, who was in the Top-10 last week, and Khalin Joshi, playing in his home course, shot four-under 68.
The advent of two Challenge Tour events has created new opportunities for Indian golfers.
While Om Prakash Chouhan, who played a stunning final round to win the Black Bull Challenge last week, now has a card on Challenge Tour, a win in the USD 300,000 event will go a long way in contending for the PGTI Order of Merit, the winner of which gets a card to the main DP World Tour.
Divyanshu, searching for his maiden title, said, “It’s been a long time since I shot such a low score. I was playing well and performing consistently on the PGTI till 2019 just before the onset of Covid. But thereafter I had some health issues due to which I struggled on the golf course.
“I’ve addressed the health problems with some changes in my lifestyle such as restrictions in my diet. These changes along with my self-belief have helped me get my game back on track.
“I had an excellent start today and the hole-in-one on the 13th was a huge confidence booster. After making bogey on the 14th, I came back really well. I was very stable from there on and kept the errors out of my game even though I missed a couple of birdie opportunities from 10 feet on the front-nine.” Another local Bengaluru golfer, C Muniyappa, Samarth Dwivedi and Varun Parikh of Gujarat carded three-under 71 each to be tied 28th.
M Dharma, a strong contender on the PGTI Tour, had India’s top amateur Avani Prashanth on the bag, as he played two-under 70.
Avani is playing the role of a caddie to see top pros in a match situation and learn from it. She often plays practice rounds with Dharma, Khalin Joshi and Chikkarangappa, who are all from Bengaluru.
Leader Hirmer, who is seeking a maiden pro win on the Challenge Tour, was T-18 last week.
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