18 October 2018: She has only just turned professional, has 20-year-old Ridhima Dilawari. The emerging golfer made a name for herself on the amateur circuit and represented India at the Asian Games in Indonesia. But nothing could have prepared us for her brilliant round today in the Hero Women’s Indian Open. Ridhima sparkled brightly with a composed 69 to end the first day, just three strokes behind the leader Tonje Daffinrud.
The Norwegian moved clear like the rapid metro that services Gurugram, firing a hat-trick of birdies to finish at the top of the leaderboard. The 27-year-old shot seven birdies in her 66, the lowest opening round score by a woman on the Gary Player course.
Daffinrud’s compatriot, Marianne Skarpnord, Austrian Christine Wolf and Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras trail by two on 68. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, England’s Florentyna Parker and Ridhima are on three-under.
In only her second professional outing, Ridhima was mighty impressive on a day when several of her seniors struggled to impose themselves. Incidentally, the young Delhi golfer hadn’t even played this course until three weeks ago. She is currently lying in T5 and a good showing here could set her on a path to an international career.
Ridhima was best placed Indian, ahead of Gaurika Bishnoi who shot a remarkable 71 containing six birdies and five bogeys. Sifat Sagoo and Tvesa Malik were even for the day and are in T18.
“I was in college until recently. I was studying in US (Columbia) but decided to give golf a 100% because it’s what I think I want to do in life. I want to give a couple of years only to golf and see how it goes; not balancing anything currently. Just playing golf,” said Ridhima.
“Until I turned pro, I didn’t play here at all. DGC is my home club. Because DLF allows all women professionals to play and practice here, so over the past three weeks I have been coming here more often.”
“Asian Games was an amazing experience. Just to be in that atmosphere, you feel so proud to represent your country.”
A bogey at the 14th had left Ridhima back at even par. But she raced straight back up the order with a forceful finish that included three birdies over the final four holes. “That bogey was pretty stupid. I 3-putted,” reminisced Ridhima. “I hit 16 greens, so that was pretty solid. I feel on this course if you let up even once, this course is not very forgiving. So I felt I was very good with just being 100% committed to every shot.”
Unlike Ridhima, her contemporary Gaurika has determined that she will split her attention between golf and academics. She owed her one under score to a slice of luck at the 17th hole. “This course owes me a few. So, it was nice to get that slice of luck for a birdie (on 17th), when it could easily have been a bogey or worse.”
Gaurika had returned to even with a birdie on the 16th. She misread the yardages on the 17th and her approach shot ricocheted off the boulders to the left before bouncing off a large stone on the right side of the green. Fortuitously, the ball rolled nicely back toward the flag, settling down five feet past the flag.
“The 17th hole unfortunately wasn’t recorded on the television, but it was a shot worth recording. I did my yardages wrong, I was supposed to subtract but I added and I hit my pitching wedge for a 110 but it was actually a 100 yards. I was extremely lucky.”
Ace golfer Vani Kapoor left herself a steep climb on Friday after a disappointing 77 in the opening round. Diksha Dagar and Sidhi Kapoor are three over along with Astha Madan and Gursimar Badwal. Amandeep Drall and Pranavi Urs are also one stroke ahead of Vani at 76.
Khushi Khanijau and Sonam Chugh are keeping Vani company at five over. Seher Atwal had a 78 to her name and Anika Varma returned to the hut with a 79 on her card.