Bangalore: Sharmila Nicollet found her form and debutant Vani Kapoor earned a rightful place among the top women pros in the country with a splendid performance that gave the 2012 season of the Hero-WGAI Tour a great start at the season-opener at the KGA Golf Course.
Sharmila first rallied from a four-shot deficit to get into a play-off with Vani and then produced two glorious shots on the first play-off hole to emerge as the champion of the Hero-KGA tournament. Sharmila carded a second sub-par round in three days with a bogey-free two-under 70 to total one-over 217, the same as Vani (74). Sharmila was the only player to turn in two sub-par rounds.
In the play-off, Vani was at least 80-yards short off the tee, but hit a great second shot to land on the green, some 12 feet from the pin. But Sharmila’s second shot was less than two feet from the cup. While Vani missed her putt, Sharmila tapped in to win the title.
The KGA course officials did a magnificent job after heavy rains last night. They ensured a playable course and the players responded with a superb final round.
Nalini Singh Siwach (72) played a fine round with one birdie against one bogey for the day’s second best card and edged out seasoned Smriti Mehra (76) to third place. Smriti was fourth and another Bangalore girl, Aditi Ashok, still an amateur, carded 73 and was fifth at 225.
“It was great to win again in Bangalore and at KGA, which is my home course. My coach Tarun (Sardesai) decided to come on the bag today and he told me that he wanted me to study the lines and putt. That helped my confidence and I am so glad that I did myself proud with a bogey-free round,” said Sharmila, who picked up Rs. 2,62,500 as the winner’s cheque.
“Starting the day four behind Vani, who was brilliant in her debut as a pro, my goal was to keep bogeys off the card and the birdies would come by themselves. That’s what happened. Tarun did not read a single line for me and by the end of the day, I felt very confident, as I don’t want to be dependant on someone else to read putts for me,” she added.
For Vani, it was a bitter-sweet debut. “It would have been great to start a pro career with a win, but a second-place is fine. I am happy with the way I played and I am sure I will keep learning. Sharmila was fantastic today. She made no mistakes. I wanted to close in the regulation and I know she hits the ball really long, but it did not happen for me,” said the 18-year-old Vani, who last year won a pro event, while still being an amateur.
“I had two birdies and two bogeys on front nine and Sharmila closed the lead from four to two on the first stretch. Then I suppose I tried a bit too hard and bogeyed the 14th and 15th to allow her to catch up. But hats off to Sharmila for great golf and I enjoyed playing with her.”
Sharmila birdied the first hole to set up momentum and exert pressure on Vani. She added another on seventh and then played pars for the next 11 holes. “I tried not to get frustrated with missed putts and just ensured I did not drop any shots,” said Sharmila.
Leading scores (After three rounds):
217: Sharmila Nicollet (71-76-70); Vani Kapoor (75-68-74)
222: Nalini Singh Siwach (74-76-72)
224: Smriti Mehra (77-71-74)
225: Aditi Ashok (A) (74-78-73)
229: Neha Tripathi (73-78-78)
231: Shraddhanjali Singh (78-75-78)
235: Saaniya Sharma (73-79-83)
By Indian Sports News Network