18 February 2019: The New Zealand Open, in its centennial edition, is set to witness a strong Indian presence. Shiv Kapur leads a bunch of Indian golfers looking to pick up an international victory as a means to catapult their careers into orbit.
Shiv Kapur, Khalin Joshi, Ajeetesh Sandhu, Viraj Madappa, Rahil Gangjee, S Chikkarangappa, Aadil Bedi, Aman Raj, Abhijit Chadha and Chiragh Kumar are all lining up at The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Queenstown.
Kapur plays the pro-am next week with former Black Caps captain and good friend Stephen Fleming. The tournament itself starts on 28 February.
‘‘It is a huge thrill to play in what is one of the oldest National Opens in the world, and with the bonus of getting to visit a country I have always dreamed of seeing as a child,’’ he said.
“Queenstown is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world and watching the tournament on TV last year just made that decision easy. The opportunity to play in a unique pro-am event similar to the Dunhill and to experience the great Kiwi culture has huge appeal.”
Rahil has a spring in his step, two victories in Asia last season securing his immediate future on the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour.
Khalin Joshi is a different person on the course ever since he scored a much-awaited victory at the Panasonic Open India in 2018. The Asian Tour victory was an important milestone for a golfer seeking to replicate his success on the PGTI Tour on a larger platform.
“I’ve never been to New Zealand, so thought this would be a good opportunity, and with my dad coming along to caddy for me, it’s going to be a special week,” he said.
The ranking points on the domestic tour have helped Khalin settle inside the top 300 on the OWGR and he is now looking to find success overseas to underscore his potential as a world class golfer.
Viraj is looking to explore his full potential as a golfer with the confidence of an Asian Tour victory in his bag. A good run overseas in a significant international tournament like the New Zealand Open will give the young man the wings to soar higher.
Ajeetesh has experience of playing in the Southern hemisphere, having toured the country as an amateur in 2006.
‘‘The prestige of the tournament, the world ranking points on offer and a chance to visit beautiful Queenstown make this a trip I’m really looking forward to,’’ he said.
Chikkarangapa started the new year on a high with victory at the Golconda Masters in Hyderabad. After a run of poor form pushed him down to 907 last year, victory at the Jeev Milkhs Singh Invitational turned his fortunes upward.
A second-place finish at the Mauritius Open at Anahita added to his swagger. Back at his best, Chikka is looking to ride his way to the top table among Indian golfers on the international scene.