16 February 2021: On a tough day for golf when breaking par seemed like a good effort, unheralded Jairaj Sandhu flew into the lead on a six-under 66 to take pole position in the Gujarat Open. Mani Ram also made a 66. The resumption of the PGTI Tour, which has combined the events in 2020 and this year into a single season on the circuit, brought much relief to Indian golfers aching for more action since the pandemic broke out last year. Khalin Joshi was the best of the lot from the morning groups, returning to the clubhouse with a 67 on his card. Rahil Gangjee and Arjun Prasad made 68 each, lying in T4.
Jairaj soared to the top of the leaderboard with two eagles and an ace on his card. The hole in one came at the par-3 11th hole. He also made four birdies and two bogeys, but what denied him a lower score was also a double on the 18th hole just before making the turn. Jairaj Singh Sandhu enjoyed some success as a junior golfer in 2013, but his efforts to qualify for the PGTI Tour in 2018 and 2019 came unstuck when he could not sail through the qualifying school events. The 23-year-old from Chandigarh will relish this moment as perhaps the best day of his budding career as a professional golfer, hoping to see himself through to a good finish on Friday.
Ram made seven birdies and an eagle on the par-5 14th hole as he too compiled a healthy 66 on his card. The 38-year-old from Karnal finished with a flourish, making birdies on the last two holes to secure a share of the lead. Joshi made five birdies in seven holes as he sailed through the front nine in just 31 strokes. Even though he scored back to back birdies at the 12th and 13th, he also conceded strokes on the 10th and 18th to settle for a 67.
The top ten was rounded off by a bunch of golfers at 69 – Shravan Desai, Chikkarangappa, Viraj Madappa, Tapy Ghai, Karandeep Kochhar and Rashid Khan were all in the group. Amateur golfer Rohan Dhole Patil also made 69.
Sumeet Chaudhary could only manage an 83, but it contained a hole in one on the par-3 eleventh hole. SSP Chawrasia made a 70 with five birdies.