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Kolkata, 25 Mar 2016

Shubhankar Sharma emerges triumphant in dramatic finale at inaugural Kolkata Classic, leads Rolex Ranking

Final hole heartbreak for Khalin Joshi, finishes tied second along with local lad Shankar Das

Gurgaon’s Shubhankar Sharma emerged triumphant on a dramatic final day of the inaugural Kolkata Classic to capture his second title of the season. Shubhankar, who posted a four-under-68 on Friday, ended the week with a winning total of nine-under-279 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC). Sharma now leads the Rolex Ranking.

There was heartbreak for Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (71), who finished tied second, despite leading till the final hole of the Rs 30 lakh event. Kolkata’s Shankar Das brought cheer to the home crowd as he delivered the day’s best score of 67 to join Joshi in tied second at eight-under-280.

It was a keen tussle between two of India’s bright young prospects, Shubhankar Sharma (68-72-71-68) and Khalin Joshi (71-69-69-71), on the final day of the Kolkata Classic.

Shubhankar, who began the day in tied fourth, two off the lead, produced some excellent iron-play to accumulate four birdies till the 14th. He finally caught up with the overnight leader Khalin after a good recovery from the bunker that led to his fifth birdie of the day on the 16th.

The 19-year-old Sharma, who recorded a win and a runner-up finish on the PGTI last month, then seemed to have slipped out of contention as he overshot the ninth green to drop a bogey. However, there was a final twist to the tale. 

Joshi, who was one ahead with three birdies for the day till he stepped on the 18th tee, landed his drive to the right and also missed a chip-putt on the last hole to concede a disastrous double-bogey that handed the title to Shubhankar.

Shubhankar thus garnered his third professional title and took home the cheque worth Rs. 4,50,000 to move up from second to first position in the Rolex Ranking. His season’s earnings read Rs. 13,00,000.

Shubhankar said, “I did well with the irons today even though I think I wasn’t at my best. It was tense out there towards the end. I thought Khalin will easily win at the end but I got lucky when he double-bogeyed the last.

“A key moment during my round was when I was looking for a chip-in from the back edge of the 18th green but my caddie advised me to go for a chip-putt instead as he informed me that Khalin had just missed the fairway and was in trouble on the 18th. I immediately changed my strategy thanks to the timely advice of my caddie.

“It’s been a fantastic season for me so far and I’ll now be playing some events on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in the next few weeks in order to get more exposure as well as world ranking points,” added Shubhankar, an Asian Tour rookie.

For Khalin Joshi it was another near miss at the RCGC. He had earlier come close to winning at the same venue during the Tour Championship last December.

Joshi said, “I’ve been struggling as far as closing matches is concerned and that was once again the case today. Nonetheless, it’s been a good week. I’ll now head to play some events on the ADT to tune my game further.”

Shankar Das (75-68-70-67), lying overnight tied eighth, jumped into the fray on the final day much to the delight of the local crowd thanks to five birdies against two bogeys on the first 13 holes. He became a serious contender with two more birdies on 15 and 17, making a chip-in on the latter, before falling short by just one stroke at the end.

“I knew I was in with a chance from the 15th onwards when I trailed the leader by just two shots. I then tried to attack the pins for birdies. I feel I’m getting back into my groove now. I’m pleased that I could give everyone here at RCGC something to cheer on the final day,” said Shankar.

Noida’s Amardip Sinh Malik and Bengaluru’s C Muniyappa finished fourth and fifth at seven-under-281 and six-under-282 respectively.
 
Kolkata’s Feroz Ali Mollah, the leader in the first two rounds, claimed tied sixth place at five-under-283 along with Delhi’ Shamim Khan, Ajeetesh Sandhu of Chandigarh and Sri Lankan L Prabagaran.

Sri Lankan N Thangaraja, the third round joint leader, ended the tournament in 10th place at four-under-284 after a final round of 75.

SSP Chawrasia’s special gesture

Kolkata’s SSP Chawrasia, who finished tied 29th at five-over-293, may not have made a lasting impression on the course during the Kolkata Classic, but he won many a heart among golf fans across the country by turning out at his home course this week despite feeling the effects of a draining Indian Open last week, a title he finally won after a long wait.

Chawrasia said, “The Indian Open win took a lot out of me mentally and physically. But I didn't want to take a break and was committed to playing the Kolkata Classic this week as I wanted to extend my full support to this new event which is a step in the right direction to revive professional golf in Kolkata. 

“The Kolkata Classic is a great initiative by the PGTI and will help the tour grow further. The PGTI provided me the launching pad for my international career so I’m pleased that I could play my part in promoting the event and the tour. 

“I also owe a lot to the RCGC having played here all my life. I want to support all events at the RCGC. I’d like to see more talent emerge from the club which has now produced three Indian Open champions including Feroz Ali Mollah, Arjun Atwal and myself.”

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