Gaganjeet Bhullar (pic by TSM) ()
Gaganjeet Bhullar became the first Indian to win on the Challenge Tour after triumphing by one shot at the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge, held in his homeland.
Bhullar battled with his nerves during a closing round of 75, but his five under par aggregate total was enough to see off England’s Matt Ford, who signed for a round of 70 to finish on four under par.
Such was the demanding nature of the course and conditions at the Jeev Milkha Singh-designed Kensville Golf Club in Ahmedabad, India, only six players finished under par.
After opening with a bogey Bhullar recovered by picking up a shot at the third hole, which he has birdied on all four days.
He immediately gave a shot back at the next hole, and after another bogey at the tenth Bhullar’s grip on the trophy appeared in some peril – especially when Ford ran up successive birdies on the 13th and 14th.
But Bhullar remained composed thereafter and, despite another bogey at the 17th hole, a par at the last sealed his victory.
The 22 year old rising star is now €32,000 richer but, perhaps more importantly, has written his name into the history books.
He said: “I’m very pleased to begin the season with a victory. Last year I also began the season with a victory on the Asian Tour, but I cherish this moment as this is my first international victory in India. It was my father’s birthday on January 14, so I dedicate this win to him. I hope that this season brings me more success, and I’m now looking forward to stepping up to The European Tour.
“Today the pin positions were tough, so it wasn’t easy to get birdies. On the 17th hole I found a bad lie in a divot and ended up making bogey, so I was under pressure. But I was confident that I could still pull it off as I knew making a birdie on the finishing hole would be difficult, even though Ford was playing well.
“It will take a while for me to digest this victory, as it’s special moment in my life. Now that I’ve got a card on the Challenge Tour, I will have to consult my parents before deciding whether to play full-time on this Tour, as it would be a quicker way to step up to The European Tour.”
Ford was disappointed to have missed out on his maiden Challenge Tour title, but could console himself with a cheque for €22,000.
He said: “Obviously it’s very disappointing to have lost by a stroke. On the last hole, when I heard that Bhullar had made a bogey on the 17th, I tried to make a birdie to force a play-off. But I hit my approach a bit short, and failed to make the putt. But credit to Bhullar, because he deserved to win.”
England’s Jamie Moul finished in third place courtesy of a best-of-the-day round of 69, whilst his compatriot Matthew Baldwin took fourth on two under par.
The only other players to finish below par were Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman (73) and Denmark’s Mads Vibe-Hastrup (72), who shared fifth place on one under par.
The Challenge Tour will now take a two month break before the season resumes with the Abierto International Copa Antioquia, in Colombia, from March 10-13.