Our Press Officers on the ground at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge bring you all the action from behind the scenes at the Challenge Tour's maiden tournament of 2012...
Great Danes stick together
Danish Challenge Tour player Lasse Jensen may well be flying home early from the Gujarat Kensville Challenge after he missed the cut in India, but he's not going to let that get in the way of experiencing some weekend golf action.
The 27 year old changed his flight out of Ahmedabad after missing the cut and will fly into Dubai on Saturday evening.
But his enthusiasm for the game of golf certainly wasn't affected by his failure to make the weekend in Gujarat and he plans to travel from to Dubai to Abu Dhabi to support his compatriot Thorbjørn Olesen at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
"I think I'm going to out and support him," said Jensen, before concluding: "only if he stays in contention though!"
Jensen has full faith in his friend Olesen, who was leading after the second round in Abu Dhabi, saying: "Thorbjørn will not be nervous at all, he's the kind of guy who will stand up with his chest out and say, 'Hey, Tiger, Westwood, Donald', you guys don't scare me, I'm the Thunderbear!'"
Jensen's jovial statement sounded like something more suited to a Hollywood movie than a golf course and only time can tell whether the 'Thunderbear', as he is commonly known amongst his peers, will produce heroics in Abu Dhabi.
Roomies Doak and Macaulay going tweeting mad
This week is a rare week in which players must room-share with fellow players due to the limited number of rooms available at the plush Kensville Golf and Country Club, and some room-mates appear to be having a more difficult time co-habiting than others.
With wi-fi throughout the building, many of the players have been busy on Twitter this week, keeping their fans updated on happenings on and off the course.
One player in particular was letting fans in on the inside scoop at a most unorthodox time of the day, as Chris Doak tweeted from his bedroom at 4.30am local time, seemingly having struggled to sleep.
"It's 4.30 in India and
@birdieblitz83 (fellow Scotsman Callum Macaulay) has the ceiling fan on so high again it's like being next to an Apache helicopter...oops, there goes the eyebrows," tweeted the good-humoured Doak.
Obviously Macaulay wasn't having any such problems, as his Twitter reply didn't come for another three hours. At the more respectable waking time of 7.30am, he responded: "
@ChrisDoak1 It was to cancel out the noise from your snoring. When the fan was turned OFF, the noise was the sweat dripping off your forehead!"
Now, now lads, can't we all just get along?!
Monkey business at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge
India is home to some of the world's most incredible wildlife and Kensville Golf and Country Club is no different. The players on the course and visitors in the complex's villas have received various visits from local monkeys.
They have been climbing the trees above the clubhouse and have even been making themselves comfortable on the course, taking a relaxing seat alongside a bunker beside the 18th hole.
While the players are used to crowds of a different species, we're sure they were still feeling the pressure of the gazing eyes.
Shiv bucks the trend
It is customary for journalists to ask the questions during players’ post-round briefings with the press, but Shiv Kapur turned the tables on his inquisitors after his opening round of 69 on Thursday afternoon. Before the reporters had even settled into their chairs, Kapur asked what the score was. In England, or indeed across most of Europe, the match in question would be of the football variety but not in India, where cricket occupies first, second and third places in the nation’s affections. Upon being told that the Indian bowling attack had taken three Australian wickets for the loss of 50 runs on the third day of the test in Adelaide, Kapur moved onto golf…but the conversation soon returned to his favourite topic. “So do you prefer watching golf or cricket?” asked one of the local hacks. Almost before the words had left his lips, Kapur had replied that the latter was his burning passion, before regaling us with a story of how the on-course commentators had kept him informed of India’s progress in the final of the Cricket World Cup during last year’s Trophée Hassan II. It seems that whilst you can take the boy out of Delhi, you can never take the Delhi out of the boy…
Bollywood atmosphere at Kensville party
The Indians certainly know how to do things in style and on Wednesday evening, Kensville Golf and Country Club played host to a most glamourous Pro-Am party.
Held on a small island in the middle of a lake at the Gujarat resort, many local dignitaries and players attended the bash and feasted on the delicious local culinary delights at a market-style set-up, which even had one of the local journalists complementing the "exotic" range of food.
Those visitors expecting the kind of regular Indian fare that they often order from the local village take-away might have been disappointed when they discovered there wasn't a Tika Masala in sight, but the delicious naan bread, gnocchi and spicy indian dishes were more than enough to whet the appetite.
Of course, there's always one brave (idiotic?) soul who comes to India thinking they're man enough to handle the local spice and one of your humble press officers decided the chili pepper dish (which had the locals flocking, while foreigners were conspicuous by their absence in the queue) would be a breeze.
One tiny nibble of the fiery green vegetable, however, and he was panting and sweating like he had run a marathon while giving a piggy-back to a hippo.
We think he would be best advised to stick to the Chicken Korma!
The music was wonderful tonight
Not only were those in attendance at the glitzy bash on Wednesday evening treated to some excellent food, but they were also treated to some live music from a local band, featuring a man on guitar and a female singer.
Those staying in the hotel have become accustomed to saxophone-based covers of songs such as James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" and Westlife's "You Raise Me Up", so no doubt they were delighted to be treated to a live performance.
Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight", The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and The Bee Gees' "Words" were amongst the songs revisited on stage as the players, dignitaries and visitors partied into the night.
Golf tricks wow crowds at Kensville
We already mentioned the weird and wonderful baggage which English golf trick shot expert Kevin Carpenter was sporting at Ahmedabad airport and on Wednesday afternoon it was his time to shine.
And shine he did as he performed all sorts of tricks, hitting shots while standing on a yoga ball, juggling golf balls with his club while riding a uni-cycle and hitting balls hundreds of yards down the range from inside a balloon!
But one of the real stars of the show was a young boy who was invited on stage to try and hit a ball in mid-air with a driver. He tried first and didn't succeed, but he tried and tried again and eventually struck a beautiful shot down the range which had the crowds in raptures.
A most welcome visitor
The name of Sharmila Nicollet may not be familiar to golfing enthusiasts in Europe, but in India she is very big news indeed after becoming the first home golfer to qualify for the Ladies European Tour (LET). Described as “the Indian Michelle Wie” due to her tall frame and photogenic looks, Nicollet was certainly the centre of attention on the driving range at Kensville G&CC on Wednesday afternoon, when she held a clinic for women and juniors. The 20 year old from Bangalore only recently returned from Spain, where she successfully negotiated four rounds of pre-qualifying and a further five rounds at the Final Stage to take her place on the LET this season. It was a commendable achievement, but not nearly as impressive as commanding the undivided attention of the clinic’s rowdy youngsters!
Golf can be a very frustrating game, as anyone who has ever swung a club in anger can readily testify. Conversation in ‘the 19th hole’ can often resemble a counselling session, with amateur hackers dissecting their technical shortcomings over a soothing pint of ale. In the absence of alcohol – Gujarat is a dry state – the members at Kensville G&CC are instead invited to seek solace from the likes of Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson, whose words of wisdom adorn plaques which are dotted around the locker room. If a quick pep talk from Arnie doesn’t do the trick, then you may be beyond saviour…
Gujarat: Did you know?
One of the great features of the Challenge Tour is the opportunity for the players to explore new countries and cultures and this week will prove a huge learning experience for everyone involved, not least your press officers on site.
As ever, we like to bring you the interactive experience on the Challenge Tour and so we will this week endeavour to keep you updated on any random facts and stories about the local area as we hear them. Here are a few for starters:
• Nearby Ahmedabad is home to the world’s cheapest road car, the Tata Nano. The four-passenger city car sells brand new for just 100,000 Indian Rupees (just over €1,600) and was described by the Financial Times as a “triumph of homegrown engineering", going on to say of the car: "If ever there were a symbol of India’s ambitions to become a modern nation, it would surely be the Nano, the tiny car with the even tinier price-tag. The Nano encapsulates the dream of millions of Indians groping for a shot at urban prosperity."
• Ahmedabad has earned the name “Manchester of the East” due to its booming textile industry and in 2010, Forbes magazine rated it as the fastest-growing city in India and the third fastest-growing in the world.
• In keeping with the rest of the nation, Gujarat is cricket-mad and its stadium Sardar Patel Stadium holds a capacity of 54,000 people and has played host to Cricket World Cup matches in 1987, 1996 and 2011. Formerly known as the Gujarat Stadium, it hosted the first match of the 1996 Cricket World Cup between England and New Zealand and nowadays often hosts home games for Shane Warne’s Indian Premier League franchise Rajastan Royals.
The roundabout that broke the camel’s back
For young American hopeful Peter Uihlein, who makes his first appearance as a professional at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge this week, his first experience on the Challenge Tour circuit will surely be one to behold and it wasn’t long before he started seeing some new and strange sights in India.
Having arrived into Ahmedabad airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the young American took to the front of the transfer bus which also included your humble press officers.
The journey took us through some barren countryside and the 22 year old must have had a slight shock when a vehicle approaching on the other side of the road didn’t appear to have its headlights on.
Lo and behold, however, it was a camel! Carrying a carriage full of hay in the middle of the night, it was certainly an unusual sight and maybe Uihlein was questioning what he had gotten himself in for when someone in the mini-bus commentated that the camel provides the airport transfer back for any players that miss the cut.
Luckily, he was joking and the good-humoured Uihlein didn’t get the hump!
Trick shot expert carrying excess baggage
Another colourful character at Ahmedabad airport was well-known English trick-shot expert Kevin Carpenter, who has been jetted out to provide some entertainment for the Pro-Am party on Wednesday and he was carrying some interesting baggage with him.
Amongst his bag of tricks was a golf club that looked like any other driver only its shaft was about twice the size of a normal golf club.