Lahiri on a high!

The victorious Anirban Lahiri.-PTI

It was a dream come true for Anirban Lahiri, who had been longing to win a tournament at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. Amitabha Das Sharma reports.

The hallowed fairways and greens of the oldest golf course outside the British Isles had always appealed to him when he took up the sport as a teenager. And now at 26, when he won the Indian golf tour’s highest prize-money title at this venue, it sated a longing for excellence that Anirban Lahiri had secretly harboured everytime he visited the 184-year-old Royal Calcutta Golf Club.

“I am really delighted with the first win at the RCGC. I have been coming here since I was 11 years old, but was never able to win a title before,” said the up and coming Indian golfer after producing a commendable 17-under-271 that gave him the McLeod Russel tour title. The Rs. 1.35 crore prize-money event, which offered the biggest purse in the Professional Golf Tour of India’s 2013 calendar, was keenly contested and the Bengaluru-based golfer grabbed the biggest share (15.85%) of it. Lahiri definitely came out as the most accomplished performer in a field that contained the cream of the country’s golfing talent.

“I started the season well with the Asian Tour. I must say this has been the most consistent year for me so far. Six years into my professional career, I am beginning to feel like a veteran. I would definitely like to retain the form and keep moving ahead in this direction in the coming years,” Lahiri said. Placed at No. 5 on the Asian Tour, Lahiri is aiming to gain a place in the highly competitive and rewarding European Tour.

“This is definitely one of the most cherished wins, though I shot a 24-under in Amby Valley a few years ago and then also had scores of 22-under and 20-under in Eagleton (Golf Resort, Bengaluru),” said Lahiri, who still holds the PGTI’s record of best score in four-rounds. Lahiri scored a 24-under-264 in 2010 at the Amby Valley Golf Course, Lonavala, eclipsing the record of 22-under set by Jyoti Randhawa in 2007.

Lahiri (66-71-65-69), in scoring the best aggregate, showed the resilience of a champion. He recovered from the occasional bogeys and double-bogeys by scoring birdies more frequently, the kind of form that his other famed compatriots like Jyoti Randhawa, Gaganjeet Bhullar and S. S. P. Chowrasia failed to conjure up. “Ending the season with a win gives a nice feeling and that too at the RCGC, which is one of the oldest courses in the world,” said Lahiri while stressing on the significance of the win.

Rahil Gangjee, Lahiri’s friend and his host in the city, played the perfect foil with a late charge. A senior pro on the Asian Tour, Gangjee claimed the second spot with a 13-under-275. He lit up the final day with some courageous play putting Lahiri under a lot of stress. But a number of bogeys later in the day neutralised all that he had gained with some remarkable birdies in the first-nine.

“It was great to perform well in front of my home crowd. It was an emotional moment for me as I was missing my father who passed away recently. He used to follow me when I played events at the RCGC,” Gangjee said after his win. The Kolkata-based golfer said playing highly competitive golf in the USA, where he spent a couple of seasons, has given him some edge. “After spending a couple of years in the U. S., I am shooting a little better. You have to shoot consistently well there to survive on the course. That practice is coming good here,” said Gangjee.

THE SCORES

271: Anirban Lahiri (66, 71, 65, 69); 275: Rahil Gangjee (70, 68, 68, 69); 278: Abhinav Lohan (68, 70, 69, 71), Chiragh Kumar (71, 69, 65, 73); 279: Jyoti Randhawa (67, 72, 71, 69); 280: Rashid Khan (72, 69, 70, 69); 281: Sanjay Kumar (68, 68, 71, 74); 282: Mithun Perera (70, 72, 70, 70), S. Chikkarangappa (70, 71, 71, 70), Gaganjeet Bhullar (71, 71, 69, 71), Angad Cheema (69, 72, 68, 73).