19 February 2020: South African Neil Schietekat and debutant Toshiumi Kushioka of Japan opened their campaigns with matching seven-under-par 64s on course A&B at the Lake View Resort and Golf Club to lead by one shot at the Asian Tour Qualifying School Final Stage on Wednesday. Karan Pratap Singh produced a rousing six-under 65 to sit just one stroke behind the leaders.
Three birdies on either stretch did the trick for Karan, who was playing the A&B course on Wednesday. The rest of the Indians though left themselves plenty of ground to cover after a tepid start to the final stage of the Asian Tour qualifying school event. Honey Baisoya shot 69 to end the day in T40, while Veer Ahlawat made a 70. Manu Gandas and Harshjeet Singh Sethi were an even 71 as were M Dharma and Himmat Rai.
“I had a good round, didn’t make any bogeys. I hit the ball really good and I was able to convert most of my birdie opportunities. I have been working really hard before coming here so it feels great to get off to a good start,” said Karan.
I’m into my second year as a professional and I think the experiences that I gained from my rookie season playing on my local Tour has helped me a lot. It gives me a lot of confidence coming into this week,” he added.
“I feel the competitiveness on the Asian Tour is very good. That’s the reason why I want to play here. There are a lot of good players here and it would be a good platform for me to hone my skills. My favourite player on the Asian Tour is Shubhankar Sharma. He won the Order of Merit in 2018 and he’s one of the players whom I look up to on Tour.”
Yuvraj Singh Sandhu, Yashas Chandra, Ankur Chadha, Khalin Joshi and Abhinav Lohan made a 72. Sunit Chowrasia, Aadil Bedi and Kartik Sharma made 74 while Amandeep Singh Johl was a further stroke back in 75. Gaurav Pratap Singh and Priyanshu Singh shot 76 in the opening round to sit at the backend of a dense Indian contingent.
The 36-year-old Schietekat, a three-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, returned with a bogey-free round highlighted by seven birdies to sit atop the leaderboard with Kushioka, who had progressed from Section A of the First Stage Qualifying School last month, where he finished tied-13th on the same venue.
Benjamin Follett-smith, the only Zimbabwean in the 244-man field this week, rediscovered his best form by carding a flawless 65 to share third place with American Seungjae Maeng, Korea’s Dongeun Kim and Karan Pratap Singh of India following the opening round of the 90-hole battle that was held across courses A&B and C&D.
Law graduate Natipong Srithong of Thailand signed for the lowest round of the day at the C&D course with a 66. The 26-year-old sits two shots back in seventh place alongside American Miguel Delgado, Korea’s Taehoon Ok and Malcolm Kokocinski of Sweden.
Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino, highest-ranked player in the field at 116th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), posted a 68 on course C&D to grab a share of 22nd place.
His compatriot Genki Okada matched his efforts by producing the shot of the day on the par-three fourth hole of the A&B course after his five-iron found the bottom of the cup from 197 yards.
The 2020 Asian Tour Qualifying School, which comprises of two stages – First Stage and Final stage, attracted a total of 458 entries from 37 countries across the globe.
After the completion of 36 holes on Thursday, the field will be cut to the leading 140 players and ties who will then play 2 further rounds.
After 72 holes, the field will be cut again to the leading 70 players and ties, who will then play the fifth and final round. At the conclusion of 90 holes on Sunday, the leading 35 players and ties will be ranked accordingly for the 2020 season.
Asian Tour Release