Pornanong to the fore

Determined effort... Champion Pornanong Phatlum with the trophy.-SANDEEP SAXENA

The 19-year-old Thai staved off Korean Hae Jung Kim’s challenge on the final day to retain the title. Y. B. Sarangi reports.

A look at the baby-faced Pornanong Phatlum may give one the impression that she is just one of those college-going youngsters. But follow the 19-year-old Thai on a golf course and you get to notice the steely resolve cocooned inside her frail frame.

Pornanong’s determined effort earned her a second consecutive DLF women’s Indian Open title, worth $14,000, at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon. She stayed in control in the first two rounds, leading the opening round with a four-under 68 before being joined by Hae Jung Kim of Korea at 140 on the second evening. The final round of the $120,000 tournament witnessed a close contest between the two overnight leaders before the Thai defended her crown in style.

On the final afternoon, with nine holes remaining, both were in joint lead and the pressure was telling. However, the Thai’s class act on the 17th hole — a 30-foot birdie putt — gave her a decisive two-stroke lead with one hole to go. Ultimately, she held on to her lead for a total of eight-under 208, two better than Kim’s effort. “I dedicate this win to my coach and family,” said a smiling Pornanong, who has got a partial card for the US Tour this season.

For the Indian fans, a few promising golfers provided some relief even as veteran pro and title-aspirant Smriti Mehra ran out of steam.

Smriti disappointed with her tied-26th place finish. The fact that she had recovered from a surgery to win a full European Tour card and a partial US Tour card for the year had raised expectations. “Maybe, I could not read the greens properly. I expected to do well here but that did not happen,” Smriti admitted.

Being played on a top-class course and offering substantial prize money, the tournament was a big occasion for the home players and some of them rose to the occasion. Young pro Nalini Singh Siwach was the best among the Indians with her six-over 222. She finished joint 11th and took home $2,161 as prize money.

“I played well here and I am satisfied with my performance,” said the 19-year-old, who had missed the cut at the Thailand Ladies Open recently.

Gauri Monga, aged 15, also impressed everyone with her seven-over 223 to finish joint 13th — a marked improvement over her last year’s showing when she finished 39th. She grabbed the top slot among the amateurs.

“My putting was better here. I focused on playing my natural game,” Gauri said.

THE SCORES Pornanong Phatlum (Thailand) 68+72+68 (208) Hae Jung Kim (Korea) 70+70+70 (210)

Titiya Plucksataporn (Thailand) 71+73+75 (219)

Mi Ri Joo (Korea) 76+74+70; Clare Choi (Australia) 76+70+74; Wen-Lin Li (Taipei) 75+70+75; Tandi Cuningham (RSA) 72+73+75 and Nontaya Srisawang (Thailand) 74+68+78 (220)

Yoe Jin Kang (Korea) 76+72+73 and Nicole Montgomery (Australia) 71+74+76 (221)

Nalini Singh Siwach (India) 76+73+73) and Veronica Zorzi (Italy) 72+73+77(222)

Gauri Monga (India) 77+72+74; Hyun Jin Park (Korea) 77+71+75 and Sahra Hassan (Great Britain) 74+72+77(223)

Tiranun Yoopan (Thailand) 74+75+76; Piyathida Songnok (Thailand) 79+70+76 and Bing Lim (Malaysia) 72+76+77 (225)

OTHER INDIANS

Smriti Mehra 76+76+76 (228); Tanya Wadhwa 75+77+77 (229); Saanya Sharma 72+81+80 (233); Shweta Galande 78+80+78 (236); Vani Kapoor 79+79+80 (238); Vandana Agarwal 81+78+82 (241); Neha Majithia 82+79+82 (243); Shreya Ghei 83+80+81 (244); Shalini Malik 80+80+86 (246); Nikki Ponappa 77+82+96 (255).