UDAYAN MANE - A 100-yard snap-hook that kickstarted Mane’s dream run

Second shot, par-5 18th hole, Final Round

2019 TATA Steel Tour Championship, Golmuri Golf Club

Harvesting 20 Official World Golf Ranking points out of a maximum possible 22 in his last four PGTI starts, Udayan Mane was the undisputed king of the domestic circuit when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the action to a grinding halt.

The Pune golfer’s all-conquering run started with season-ending TATA Steel Tour Championship in Golmuri Golf Club in the last week of December 2019. With rounds of 67, 66, 64 and 65, he won the tournament at 26-under par

Mane then proved that a new calendar year is nothing but a mindset. The form continued as he won the Vooty & Haldi Golconda Masters at 17-under par, followed by a 20-under par effort at Eagleton Golf Resort in Bengaluru. The streak was broken at the Bengal Open at Tollygunge Club, but not after he battled to sixth extra hole before losing to an audacious chip-in by Aadil Bedi.

It’s really been an incredible run, and let nobody berate that effort because it came on the national circuit and not on any international Tour. Quite astonishingly, the final-day 69 at the Bengal Open was his worst round in 16 outings. He is averaging 4.8-under par for each round. That kind of scoring, even if it were to happen on a chip-putt course, is worth doffing your hats to.

A lot of reasons have been given about Mane’s rampaging form – ranging from his turning to vegan diet and improving his physical fitness, to adding Laurence Brotheridge to his coaching team that includes Vijay Divecha, to his new ‘can-do’ and ‘I-am-the-best’ mentality. Whatever floats his boat, here’s just hoping that his career continues to cruise towards greater heights in the future.

To be 77-under par for his last four PGTI tournaments mean that the 6ft 4in tall gentle giant has hit plenty of good shots. But the one that stood out of the 1,063 shots Mane hit in that period, involved a 5-iron and was instrumental in setting up the biggest and first win in the stretch – at the Rs1.5cr TATA Steel Tour Championship.

As they came down the 18th hole on Sunday, Mane and SSP Chawrasia were tied for the lead at 25-under par. The closing hole at Golmuri is a par-5, and a decent drive sets up a very good chance of making a birdie. But it was the drive that left him in a lot of trouble that day.

“I thought I hit my driver on a really perfect line, but it probably missed the fairway by about three yards and my ball nestled itself slightly ahead of a sapling there,” recalls Mane.

“I did not have any backswing. For some reason, the sapling had not been marked, so I did not get any drop from there. The only way for me to advance the ball was to hit it way right and then try and wedge it for a birdie. I definitely needed to make a birdie there because I thought Chow da would surely make his.

“From about 214 yards to the pin, I took out a five-iron and aimed about 100 yards right of the flag. I was now playing towards the middle of the adjacent road, which was obviously out of bounds. I ended up hitting the most perfect snap-hook 5-iron, it curled all the way and landed just left of the flag. I made a pretty good up-and-down over there for a birdie to win by one.”

Mane said the putt to tie for the lead on the final hole at Eagleton this year was also special.

“Playing the last hole. I was 19-under par and the leader (Veer Ahlawat) was 20-under, so I knew I had to make a birdie on the last to give myself a chance to get into a play-off. I hit a good 3-iron off the tee and then hit a pitching wedge 12 feet left and short of the pin,” said Mane, who showed his potential in his rookie season when he raced to an eight-shot win at the 2015 Western India Oxford Golf Masters.

“It’s a sort of downhill sloping green from front to back. It was a 12-footer, but had about three-and-a-half feet of break in it. I just drained it right in the centre of the cup. It really was a great read and got me to 20-under and into a play-off, which I ended up winning.”

While talking of his two shots, Mane remembered another 5-iron shot that has been very close to his heart. It came on the final hole of the 2017 Bengaluru Open Golf Championship, which was held at the KGA Golf Course.

“I was having a good season and had won twice in 2017 already and was in contention at the Bengaluru Open. I was tied for the lead at 20-under par with Honey Baisoya playing the 18th hole of KGA, which is a par-5,” remembers Mane.

“It was my third shot from way back because I had got stymied behind a tree with my tee shot. I had to make a choppy swing and the ball did not even advance to the fairway. I was stuck in the rough, which was very thick that week.

“From 232 yards out to a pin which was cut back-left about 30 paces in, I had to hit my shot over water and also take into consideration the water to the left of the green. I just muscled a five-iron which went over the green. It was a very tough shot, but I pulled it off perfectly. I made a chip-putt from there for a par to win by one shot as Honey three-putted for a bogey.”

By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)

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