Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh blasted his way to the summit of the leaderboard with a superb round of five under par 67 on the opening day of the inaugural Gujarat Kensville Challenge, the first event of the 2011 Challenge Tour season.
The Challenge Tour debutant raced into the lead after sprinkling five birdies in a flawless round of golf at Kensville Golf Club in Ahmedabad, India, which was designed by three-time European Tour champion Jeev Milkha Singh.
Rahman, starting on the tenth tee, flew out of the blocks with four birdies on the way out, before adding another on the sixth hole to finish two strokes clear of his nearest challengers, England’s Daniel Denison, Austrian Florian Praegant and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos.
“I played two practice rounds and the Pro-Am and hence was primed before the event,” said Rahman. “When I went out, I just thought of keeping the ball on the fairways as there are so many out of bounds on the course.
“It was a combination of good driving and short game that enabled me to keep the bogeys off my card.
“I hope to sustain my form through the week. And if I win this week, I would prefer to play the Challenge Tour even though I have an Asian Tour card, because ultimately I would like to play on The European Tour.”
Rahman is one of a number of young Bangladeshi players emerging on the international golfing scene, and he believes it is no coincidence that he and his countrymen are developing at a rate of knots, given the junior programme he came through in his homeland.
“My club, Kurmitola Golf Club, has played a crucial role in the development of golf in Bangladesh by initiating a junior development programme and providing enough facilities for them to train. Hence there is a spurt in the number of players playing on the bigger tours.”
The chasing pack is led by Denison, whose career – and indeed life – was in jeopardy after he was involved in a serious car crash in 2007.
But having returned to full fitness the young Englishman is rebuilding his career, and will have been encouraged by a round of 69 which was marred only by a double bogey at the par three fifth hole.
Denison was joined on three under par by Santos, whose first gain came at the fourth hole, where he hit a nine iron to four feet and rolled in the putt. That birdie was soon cancelled out by his only blemish of the day at the next hole, where he three-putted from long range.
But the 28 year old made amends after the turn, running up successive birdies on the 12th and 13th holes courtesy of putts from three and ten feet respectively.
Another birdie on the 16th hole, where he pitched his seven iron to ten feet, saw Santos come home in 33 to join Praegant in a share of the lead.
He said: “My driving was the key to my round today – I was excellent off the tee, which took a lot of pressure off my irons. My putting was also decent – I had 32 putts, which wasn’t bad going because the greens here are obviously very hard with the sun.
“The course is in good condition, especially considering the fact that it’s only three years old. It’s a tough course, but I enjoyed playing it. Having made a good start, hopefully I can now keep it going over the next three days.”
Like Santos, Praegant also took advantage of the shorter back nine to join the Portuguese player in a share of second place.
After turning in one over par the Austrian might have feared the worst, but he stormed back with birdies at the tenth, 12th, 14th and 15th holes to surge through the field.
He said: “The course is in great shape, except maybe for one or two of the greens, which are a touch firm. It’s a tough course with lots of out of bounds, so you have to keep it straight, especially off the tee. Luckily I managed to keep the ball in play all day.
“I played some good golf today, and didn’t really miss any of the birdie chances I created. I want to take it round by round and not put too much pressure on myself, but it’s always important to get off to a good start and I’m glad I’ve managed to do that.”
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar, one of the host nation’s brightest prospects and twice a winner on the Asian Tour, is well in the hunt on two under par, alongside the Scandinavian trio of Sweden’s Klas Eriksson, Norwegian Espen Kofstad and Dane Mads Vibe-Hastrup.