Rahil Gangjee took one more step towards securing victory on his Challenge Tour debut after a one over par round of 73 kept him in pole position heading into the final day of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, where he is one shot clear of Dodge Kemmer and Max Keiffer.
The 33 year old began the day tied for the lead with his compatriot Shiv Kapur, but a blustery day on the tough Jeev Milkha Singh-designed Kensville Golf and Country Club course claimed many victims and Kapur was one of them, as he dropped to tied 11th with a round of 78.
American Kemmer, on his Challenge Tour debut, and Germany’s Kieffer made hay in the tough conditions as they both carded two under par rounds of 70 to move into tied second place, while there were four players a shot further back in tied fourth.
Gangjee would become the second successive Indian, as well as the second successive Challenge Tour debutant, to win the Gujarat Kensville Challenge after Gaganjeet Bhullar triumphed in the inaugural event on his first appearance on the Tour last year.
The Calcutta man looked on course to establish a commanding lead, as he was one under for the day when he stepped onto the 16th tee courtesy of birdies at the first, fourth, ninth and 15th holes, combined with bogeys at the second, fifth and seventh.
A bogey at the 16th, however, was followed by an untimely double-bogey at the 17th, where he four-putted after reaching the green in three.
“It was going OK until the 17th hole,” he said. “Then it started to go badly wrong. My first putt from just off the green rolled up the hill and picked up speed as soon as it got to the top, and rolled way past the hole.
“I thought my next putt was uphill, but it was a lot faster than any other putt I had today, and it ended up 25 feet from the hole. At that point, I felt so embarrassed – it felt like I was playing hockey! So I ended up four-putting for a double bogey, which wasn’t a lot of fun.
“But I’m really pleased with the way I calmed myself down and hit a great shot into the last to ten feet for a birdie. That could prove very important tomorrow. Other than 16 and 17, I actually played pretty solid today.
“I’m still going to play positively on the last day, because it’s the only way I know how. If it’s going to be as firm as it was today, someone’s going to have to go really low to come through the field and overtake me.
“As Gary Player said, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m probably going to have some nerves, because you’re not human if you don’t, but I’m now much more confident of controlling them.”
Kemmer, meanwhile, continues to dream of a winning Challenge Tour debut after he carded three birdies on the back nine to make up for his single bogey on the front nine and finish the day on five under par.
“Given the conditions out there today, I’ve got to be pleased with that round,” admitted the Californian. “Other than the sixth, I managed to keep the bogeys off my card, and a few birdies on the way in have put me into a pretty good position going into the last day.”
The 24 year old was thoroughly enjoying his first Challenge Tour experience and is keen to play more on the European circuit, something that would be made all the much easier with a win in India.
“I’ve got my Asian Tour card after coming through Qualifying last week,” he said. “But my main goal is to get onto The European Tour by the end of the season.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that aim, so if I have a good final round, I might be playing on the Challenge Tour a bit more this season. I’m really enjoying my first Challenge Tour event, and I can definitely see myself playing in Europe for the next few years. I think it’d be a lot of fun.”
Keiffer is also chasing a first win on the Challenge Tour after finishing 57th in the Rankings in his first season last season, coming close to victory at the ALLIANZ Challenge de France, where he finished runner-up after losing a play-off against his compatriot Nicolas Meitinger.
The German had three birdies on the front nine, at the fourth, sixth and seventh holes whilst also bogeying the fifth to reach the turn in 34, before a bogey on the 10th was followed by a birdie on the 14th to leave him two under par for the day and five under for the tournament.
“It was tough today in the wind and with the pin positions, so I’m very happy with a round of 70,” said the 21 year old. “It’s been a long day so I’m feeling a bit tired, but I managed to stay focused for the whole round. My driving today was very good and my wedges were quite good without being great, but I managed to make a few birdies so I’m very pleased.
“It’s great to be in contention again, because the last time was in France last May, when I lost in a play-off. I was a bit disappointed not to have got into contention again last season, but I’m really looking forward to the final day, and hopefully I can get the job done this time.”
Phillip Archer, Jens Dantorp, Andreas Hartø and Luke Goddard are the four players in tied fourth spot while Oskar Henningsson and Callum Macaulay are a shot further back.