07 May, 2018: Ever since breaking through into the spotlight with a spectacular season in 2013, when she scored five victories and topped the WGAI order of merit, Neha Tripathi has been looking to establish herself on the international scene.
While it has taken time for her to impose herself, the stage seems finally set for Neha to soar high and score low. A sensational 62 in the second round of the sixth leg on the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour underlined her class and quality.
We caught up with Neha recently to discuss her massive victory at the Classic Golf & Country Club and her plans for the future.
“I had been practicing at ITC the previous two weeks before the tournament not like playing every day, but I had played a couple of rounds there. We also had the BT pro-amp, the weekend before our main tournament,” explained the modest golfer.
“I shot a round of 75 and 71 to finish fifth. The round of 71 gave me a lot of confidence with respect to my ball striking, and I was just getting comfortable with my swing change that I made the previous week,” she added. “So I decided to skip the practice round of the tournament. I practiced for the first couple of hours at the range and then just went and played about seven, eight holes in the back nine. I was feeling really confident going on to the tee on the first day.”
The magical 62 in Neha’s own words
I started with a bogey, but that didn’t really deter my determination. I was extremely confident about shooting a low score, I made six birdies that day against three bogies to shoot a 69 on the first day.
On the second day, I followed pretty much the same routine, didn’t do anything extraordinary. It was just, I think the way I started.
The first hole, I hit it to about ten-twelve feet and made the par.
At the second – I was slightly left of the flag, tried for a chip-in, managed to make another par.
I think we got going at the third hole – I made a 15-16 footer for birdie.
At the fourth hole – I almost chipped in for birdie, but it flipped out.
Fifth hole – I had hit it slightly off the green onto the left side, but managed to make a par putt.
Sixth hole – I hit it into the bunker, but I holed out from there for a birdie.
On the seventh hole – I hit it to about eight feet and made par.
Eighth hole – I hit it to ten feet made the putt
Ninth hole – I was pin high, right side of the green, just looking to chip onto the green from about 10-12 yards. I chipped that in for an eagle.
Then on the tenth I hit a lob wedge to about five feet from 80 yards and made the putt for birdie.
On the eleventh – I hit my eight iron about twenty feet, made that for birdie.
Twelfth, I over shot the green, missed my putt for birdie, but it was a great save.
Thirteenth hole – I made a good two putt for par.
Fourteenth hole, again from the green side bunker I hit it to about four feet and made birdie.
Fifteenth hole – I made a good two putt for par.
Sixteenth hole was, I think one of the best par saves the entire day. I had overshot the green on to the left side, the pin was playing center, back center. I chipped it exactly where I wanted to put the ball. I actually chipped the ball exactly on the place when I wanted it to start releasing from, unfortunately, it didn’t and I had a ten footer to save for par.
That’s when I happened to ask my caddie about, how much we were playing in total. Because I had kind of lost count on what I was shooting. And he said to me, “Don’t worry about what you are playing, just focus on making the putt”.
I went through my routine and holed that putt for par, that’s when I counted that I was eight under for the day. Made a par on the seventeenth.
Eighteenth, I hit a really good approach shot from 230 yards with my three wood to about six feet. My ball striking had been good the entire day and so was my putting.
I was pretty confident about going onto the green and that I would be able to make the putt. But that number 62, 63 kept floating in my head.
So, before I made the putt I took like some time off, I was just watching the other players putt, sipping some water and taking deep breaths.
When I got onto the ball, I just went with the same routine and my caddie told me that “whether you should have 62 today or a 63, it’s a great round, so don’t worry about that”.
And I don’t think I felt any pressure after that, so once I stood on the ball, I just told myself to make a good putt. And I holed that for an eagle and a ten under round.
And then the march to victory
Getting into the final round – I was pretty confident about shooting a good number. I just wanted to shoot another low round and I think I played solid the first nine. Back nine, I made four birdies against a bogey to shoot a 69.
I wasn’t really focused on about what other people were playing. I just wanted to shoot like a really good number for the week that kind of gives me confidence to go into the future events.
Lot of this has to do with the fact that, Vickie who is caddying for me is absolutely calm. He is Subhankar’s Caddie. And he makes sure that I don’t get ahead of myself, stay in the moment, and follow my process and my routine throughout.
I think our strategy of just playing to my strength worked really really well. And I made a lot of up and downs from places where I used to struggle with before. So, going according to the way I have played I think my short game was pretty tight that week.
It was great. Just having a great team by my side since the start of the year has been absolutely phenomenal. I think Jesse (Grewal) sir is extremely proud of the way his students are doing. Being back in shape and form, the last few weeks has been really good.
Jesse Sir’s belief in me has gone up. Also, watching Shubhankar play so well has rubbed off on me too. I look up to that kid, and I have seen him grow as a golfer and a human being. We have shared army roots and it is good to see his humble nature is taking him places.
I want to take all of that and focus on my own game. I feel pretty confident about the next couple of months. We have Hong Kong in May and then a couple of tournaments on the Ladies European Tour.