05 September 2021: Hyderabad is famous for its rich heritage and even richer food. There was plenty of both on offer this week at the Hyderabad Golf Club. But Manu Gandas will remember it for a delicious maiden victory built on the strength of his monk like calm and many years of perseverance. On another grey day on a tricky course, Gandas (64-58-64-64) kept to his process with remarkable poise to bring home a wire to wire victory over a determined bunch of challengers including Karandeep Kochhar (67-64-63-59), Chikkarangappa (67-63-61-63), Khalin Joshi, Yuvraj Singh Sandhu and Amardeep Malik. In the end though, the son of a swimming teacher from DLF had more than enough on his wings for a resounding three-stroke victory at 22-under 250.
Since shooting ten-under in the second round, Manu has been living on his own at the top of the leaderboard, maintaining a healthy gap from the field. He started Sunday with a five stroke advantage. If anyone thought, it was going to be a nice stroll under the clouds, the final round was anything but that.
The course also teased his temperament, only to realise that the 25-year-old was ready for the test. Gandas conceded a bogey on the second, perhaps a sign of nerves very early in the day, playing alongside Chikkarangappa and Yuvraj Singh Sandhu. Amardeep Malik crept up the order with a frantic push, aided by an eagle on the third hole and a birdie on the sixth. A third of the round in books, and suddenly they were only separated by a single stroke. The tournament appeared to finally open a window to the field after being subject to some dominant golf by Gandas.
Just when murmurs of excitement sent eager crowds for a quick coffee at the new canteen adjacent to the sixth, eighth and tenth holes, Malik dissipated the surge of energy when he gave his ball the drink, hooking left and behind the island green on the par-3 seventh hole. It was a bit of a dampener.
Meanwhile, Gandas kept his head down, eking out pars through the forward stretch with unerring persistence. That is characteristic of the golfer, who has been working relentlessly during the lockdown on sharpening his game.
“I feel relieved and happy to have finally won a title after coming close on a few occasions before. I’ve waited a long time for this. The way I was playing this season, I knew that a win was just around the corner,” said Gandas.
“My ball-striking has been at its best this year and psychologically my process has been more concrete.”
“I was comfortable through the day and the early setbacks didn’t really bother me as I knew that I will create birdie chances for myself later in the round. I didn’t see the scoreboard too often and was just focusing on my own game.”
“This win gives me tremendous confidence going ahead. I would like to thank my family for all their support and my coach Anitya Chand for his guidance.”
Gandas punctuated a sedate front nine with a couple of birdies soon after the turn. The tide seemed to turn firmly in his favour then with Amardeep conceding bogeys at the 12th and 13th holes. Malik was early to the course in the morning, in an effort to find his zone. He seemed to stride with purpose, believing in his ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat and upend Gandas. Despite the double blow, he persisted.
Malik, who was sixth in the Tata Steel Tour Championship, continued to play aggressive golf as he pushed to the very end. Even though he made a hattrick of birdies, he got wet for a second time. At the par-5 17th, Amardeep found water to the right of the fairway and suffered a bogey. The curtains were drawn on his challenge.
Chikkarangappa, playing alongside Gandas and Karandeep picked up a second wind on the second nine. A scintillating run of birdies offered a semblance of challenge to an unflappable leader. The two men were on a tear. A spotless 59 from Karandeep was fueled by six birdies on the home stretch, with Chikka nearly matching him with five on his card.
“I’m very proud of my effort as I didn’t get any practice in the 10 days prior to this event because I was unwell. A runner-up finish in that context is special,” said Karandeep.
Gandas responded with a push on the pedal, that showed not only his remarkable nerve but also an organised plan to pursue victory. He shot four birdies, at 10 & 11 and then at 16 & 17. It was interesting to watch him plod along with machine like certainty despite missing makeable birdie putts at three of the four holes between those birdies.
In the end, despite a three-putt bogey on the final hole, Gandas had daylight separating him from the field. At 19-under Karandeep collected the silver medal, three behind the winner. Chikka kept it close, even on the order of merit standings, by standing right behind Karandeep at 18-under.
Khalin Joshi shot a bogey-free 61 to finish in fourth with Amardeep at 16-under 256. Khalin made one final push with three birdies in five holes on his back nine, but four straight pars meant that it was all he could do to move the needle.
Yuvraj Sandhu will feel a tinge of pain when he sleeps in tonight. He was 16-under through the fourteenth hole, but a triple on the 15th hole and a double on the 17th put paid to his aspirations. A final round 69 dropped him into a tie for seventh with Shivendra Singh Sisodia, Rashid Khan and Sudhir Sharma. They finished at 12-under 260, one behind Viraj Madappa, who was alone in sixth place.
Local lad Milind Soni claimed amateur honours in T38 at 1-under 272. Tej Gangavarapu also made the cut, finishing in 51st at 5-over 277.