Home hero Gaganjeet Bhullar returns to Ahmedabad this week to defend his title at the €200,000 Gujarat Kensville Challenge, the first event of the 2012 Challenge Tour season.
Twelve months ago, Bhullar became the first Indian to win on the Challenge Tour when he overcame some final day nerves to prevail by a single stroke at Kensville Golf Club, which was co-designed by his illustrious compatriot Jeev Milkha Singh.
Despite closing with a round of 75, Bhullar’s five under par aggregate total was enough to see off England’s Matt Ford, who will be bidding to go one better this year.
The home challenge is also bolstered by the presence in the 114-man field of Shiv Kapur, who boasts a wealth of European Tour experience.
The 29 year old from New Delhi, who has two runner-up finishes to his name on The European Tour, will be keen to rediscover some form and rebuild his confidence after finishing in 121st place in The 2011 Race to Dubai.
The same applies to John Parry, who returns to Challenge Tour duty after struggling for consistency on The European Tour last term.
The Englishman, who won the 2009 ALLIANZ Open de Toulouse en route to finishing 14th in the final Rankings, entered the winners’ enclosure on The European Tour at the 2010 Vivendi Cup but was unable to maintain his momentum during his second season on the top tier, finishing 126th in The 2011 Race to Dubai.
Having finished 141st in The Race to Dubai, Parry’s compatriot Robert Dinwiddie is also on the comeback trail this week, as is his fellow 2009 Challenge Tour champion Daniel Gaunt of Australia, who finished one place beneath Dinwiddie in the Money List.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, former World Amateur Number One Peter Uihlein will be making his professional debut at Kensville Golf Club.
The highlights of a glittering amateur career include victory at the 2011 US Amateur Championship – on his 21st birthday – and at the 2011 Walker Cup, where he recorded two wins in four matches.
Uihlein also followed in the footsteps of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods by becoming only the fifth person in history to be named the American Junior Golf Association’s Player of the Year on two occasions, in 2005 and 2007.
Uihlein is not the only American in the field, with Scott Pinckney having also made the journey to western India.
Pinckney earned his European Tour card in sensational style at last year’s Qualifying School Final Stage where, having started the final round in a tie for 66th place on one under par, he fired a best-of-the-day round of 65 to take the 24th card available.
The American will be joined in Ahmedabad, the largest city in the state of Gujarat, by his fellow European Tour Members HP Bacher of Austria and Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer, who like Pinckney will be keen to gain some invaluable experience of competing in sub-continental conditions before continuing their maiden campaigns in The Race to Dubai.
The 7,224 yards (6,607 metres), par 72 parkland course at Kensville Golf Club provided a stern test last year, with just six players finishing the inaugural event under par.
Milka Singh said: “Kensville is just the kind of course young Indian golfers need to get used to if they hope to do well at the highest level. It’s a long windy course with lots of water hazards, which makes it very tough.”