Oct 12, 2017: While all eyes were on the established names, Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa, in round one of the TAKE Open Golf Championship 2017, it was youngsters Shubhankar Sharma and Dipankar Kaushal who stole the thunder with the day’s best scores of four-under-68 at the Chandigarh Golf Club.
Local lad Shubhankar and Noida’s Dipankar jointly led the field by one stroke as a bunch of five players including Chandigarh’s Sujjan Singh, Delhi’s Vikram Rana, Pradeep Kumar of Noida, Kolkata’s Md Sanju and Veer Ahlawat of Gurgaon, occupied joint third place with identical scores of three-under-69.
Shubhankar Sharma, who moved base from Gurgaon to Chandigarh last season, was accurate off the tee and with his wedges on Thursday. The Asian Tour regular was two-under through 11 holes before he made some quality up and downs to produce three birdies over the next six holes. The 21-year-old Sharma, however, ended the day with a bogey on the last where he missed an up and down from the bunker.
Shubhankar said, “Everything seemed to fall in place for me today. I struck it well off the tee and played some good wedge shots after a long time. I also hit a lot of greens in regulation. I controlled myself really well and managed the course well.
“Playing at my home course adds to the comfort level. The tee shots will be the key here. On the tee, one has to pick a spot and land it there in order to have a chance of scoring well. It’s not an easy golf course since it’s tree-lined and if you miss the fairway even by a bit it’s tough to stop the ball on the green.”
Dipankar Kaushal, meanwhile, fresh from a top-20 last week in Noida where he posted an opening round of six-under, carried on the good work, matching Shubhankar’s opening round effort courtesy six birdies and two bogeys. The 31-year-old Dipankar came up with two chip-ins on the day, first on the third and then on the seventh.
Kaushal said, “I feel I’m coming into this event with some good form. I had a decent outing last week in Noida after a terrific opening round. I’m shaping the ball well and I’m putting well. I’ll take a four-under start at this course any day since it’s not going to be easy to score here at Chandigarh Golf Club.
“I’m enjoying a much better season compared to 2016. It’s my friend and fellow professional Bikramjit Singh Sandhu who has helped me improve my game. Bikramjit, currently based in the US, keeps sharing his advice and inputs with me online and that has really contributed towards my better results of late.”
Sujjan Singh, another local favourite and Asian Tour regular, carded a bogey-free 69 to stay within a shot of the lead. He was tied with four others including Veer Ahlawat and Md Sanju, both of whom dropped double-bogeys on their last hole, the ninth.
Among the star attractions in the field, Rashid Khan and Jyoti Randhawa made good recoveries after poor starts.
While Rashid followed his opening hole double-bogey on the 10th with three birdies to lie tied 17th at one-under-71, Jyoti, who was two-over through three holes, finally finished with an even-par-72 to occupy tied 29th place.
Randhawa said, “It was an average round as I couldn’t convert my putts especially on the eighth and ninth.”
Jeev Milkha Singh, another local favourite, playing in the marquee group of the day along with Randhawa and Rashid which was followed by a huge crowd, made a slow start to the week with a three-over-75. Jeev bogeyed his first two holes and couldn’t get his round back on track thereafter. He was placed tied 71st.
Jeev said, “I drove the ball poorly and just couldn’t get it in play off the tee. But I scrambled well today.”