20 October 2023: Playing in front of her family, friends, and fans at the US$ 400,000 Hero Women’s Indian Open, Vani Kapoor grabbed the spotlight on Day 2 as she added 70 to her first round 68 to take the top spot for most part of the day. Later in the evening, she was overtaken by rookie Aline Krauter, who is making a bid to take back the trophy to Germany for the second straight year after Olivia Cowan won last year at the DLF Golf and Country Club. Diksha Dagar, making a bid to move to the top of the Race to Costa Del Sol standings, held on for an even par 72 with three birdies and three bogeys after a 67 on Day 1. She is 5-under and tied third with Swede Sara Kjellker (66), who had the day’s best card.
There was a lot to celebrate for local fans as another DLF golfer, Gaurika Bishnoi carded 69 to be Tied seventh with amateur Avani Prashanth (71-70) at 3-under.
Four Indians figured in the Top-7 positions of the leaderboard with six others making the cut that fell at 6-over.
Amateur Vidhatri Urs, 2-under through her first nine holes, had a bad second nine with four bogeys, three of them straight from sixth to eighth holes. She shot 74 and was even par for 36 holes and Tied 14th, a sharp drop from Tied-sixth overnight.
Ridhima Dilawari (74-71) was T-20, Khushi Khanijau (73-73) was T-29 and Neha Tripathi (75-72) was T-35.
Nishtha Madan, seven over 79 for the first day, made a great recovery to shoot 70 on the second day and ensured weekend action at T-51 at 5-over. Amandeep Drall (76-74), runner-up here last year, squeezed inside the cut line with a birdie on her final hole of the day. Her second nine was rocky with a triple on Par-4 1st (her 10th) and a double bogey on Par-4 sixth. She also had birdies on third and fourth and yet another last-gasp birdie on the ninth.
Vani, firing six birdies against four bogeys, said, “It’s so nice to play at your home course and have friends and family here as well as all the DLF members. It’s a brilliant feeling [and] really a different feeling.”
Starting two behind overnight leader Madelene Stavnar (74) Kapoor birdied the 3rd, 7th, and 9th on the front nine before giving shots back on the 4th, 8th and 10th. She made back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th before adding another on the picturesque par-3 16th to storm into the lead.
With a local crowd gathered on the 18th, Kapoor was forced to hack out from the bushes after a wayward second shot and made a bogey on the par-5 closing hole.
“It was quite an up and down round,” she said. “I would make one birdie and then drop a bogey. But I’m glad that I held on,” added Kapoor, who is making her 11th appearance at her National Open.
The leader after Round 2, Germany’s Aline Krauter said, “”My ball striking was really good today. This helps around this course. I left a lot out there around the greens, but I feel like that’s every golf round.”
“I put myself in great positions and had a lot of birdie chances. I didn’t convert as many as I would have liked, or could have, but it was still a great round.”
Vani, 120th in the Race to Costa del Sol, needs a good finish to keep her LET card for the next season. She said, “Obviously keeping my card is important, but right now I’m not thinking about that. I feel I’ve come to terms with it, irrespective I’m still going to be playing golf and I love the sport.”
Lying tied third was the left-handed Diksha Dagar, fourth on the Race to Costa Del Sol standings. She admitted, “I didn’t start well.” Dagar dropped shots on her opening two holes.
She added, “Today my putting let me down, and the pin positions were a little bit tougher than yesterday.”
Dagar rebounded with birdies on the 8th and 11th before dropping another shot back on the narrow par-4 14th. She then birdied the par-5 18th to move to within one of Vani. Both were later overtaken by Aline Krauter.
Avani, who had a win at Queen Sirikit Cup and one on the LET Access Tour in Europe, looked confident after her 2-under 70 that had four birdies against two bogeys. She said, “I started off very well with a birdie on the first, immediately hit a bad shot on second. I told my dad on the sixth green that I’m going to birdie seven, eight, nine; exactly what I did. And then, going into the back at three under, I was very happy with how I was going.
“Somehow flew my three wood on 14 and went into the right hazard. But besides that, I think I’m pretty happy because the course was playing pretty tough today. I will take a two under, sitting four shots back with 36 holes to go is something I can definitely close out.”
She gave her caddie a lot of credit and added, “I would definitely say that my caddy helped because I was losing a bit of my mind in the first six holes but he told me that you’ll figure things out at seven, eight and nine looking quite easy and I saw in the morning a lot of people had birdied those three holes.”
Gaurika, who has been playing at this course for almost 15 years, has not been able to translate her good form on the local tour to the internationals. She said, “To be honest I’ve had a fantastic season (at home) because I’ve played six events and won two and I finished runner-up in two. I haven’t had the opportunity actually to play that much internationally. Also, I was struggling initially a little with my injuries. I am just finding my momentum again.”
She went on, “The Hero Women’s Indian Open is the National Open and I’m just very proud to be representing my country. This is my home course so I think the odds fall in my favour. I love the course, I’ve grown up here. I have that sentimental attachment with the course. So the Hero Women’s Indian Open is just a very special week for me.”