Rahil Gangjee staked an early claim to keep the Gujarat Kensville Challenge title in Indian hands as he led the field on four under par after the first round of the €200,000 event, the first of the 2012 Challenge Tour season.The Calcutta man led by a single stroke, with Shiv Kapur, Dodge Kemmer and Gary Lockerbie waiting in the wings just a shot behind in a tie for second place.
“If you have a bogey-free round, I guess you know your game is in good shape. I didn’t make too many mistakes and kept the ball in play, and on the holes where I missed the green I was only a yard or two out, so I didn’t really leave myself in any tough positions to make pars.
"I’m pleased with a round like that after taking a month off, which is what I needed to recover from a disappointing season on The European Tour last year. I thought there might be some rust in the system after a month away, but my game was pretty sharp.”
He was joined later in the day by Lockerbie, whose day got off to an astounding start when the Englishman holed his approach shot on his first hole, the par four 10th.
“It was the first hole of my first tournament of the year so I’m very pleased with that,” said Lockerbie. “I just hit a driver down the middle and I had 117 yards down the breeze, so it was just a gap wedge.
“I couldn’t see it land, we heard it but we didn’t know it went in so got a nice surprise when I went up there. It just went straight in, no bounce so which doesn’t happen very often, so you take them when they come.”
The 29 year old added birdies to that eagle, on the 12th and 14th holes, to reach the turn in four under par. But he stumbled with bogeys on the first and third, before a birdie on the sixth was followed by a birdie-bogey finish to sign for a three under par round of 69.
American Kemmer joined the duo on three under soon after but, having teed off on the tenth hole before birdieing the 15th, he had to battle hard for his 69 after he could only reach the 17th green in six shots. But he holed his putt for a double-bogey before birdies on the second, fifth, sixth and ninth holes carried him to three under par.
“It was a disappointment,” said the 24 year old. “I thought being one under going on to 17 was good, but afterwards I knew I had to battle to even get back to par. But after the double-bogey I started playing better, hitting it where I was aiming and made a few good putts.
“It definitely could have gone either way after some of the shots I hit on 17. It could have gone the other way, but I’m proud of myself for hanging in there.”
Gaganjeet Bhullar’s title defence got off to a steady start, meanwhile, as the young Indian began with eight successive pars before dropping a shot on the ninth hole to reach the turn on one over par.
His back nine was much more eventful, however, as he birdied the 12th, 13th and 14th holes to move to two under par. Mistakes on the 16th and 17th holes led to back-to-back bogeys, but a birdie on the final hole meant he finished the day on one under par with a 71.
Elsewhere, former World Amateur Number One Peter Uihlein’s professional career did not get off the start he desired after a triple bogey on the par four third hole tarnished an otherwise steady round of 76.