Top names in Indian golf to light up Western India Oxford Masters

Udayan Mane Action PicturePune: The inaugural Western India Oxford Masters will feature some of the top Indian professionals at the Oxford Golf Resort in Pune this week.

Leading the field at the Rs. 30 lakh event is the 2011 Rolex Player of the Year Chiragh Kumar. Chiragh finished tied second along with Anirban Lahiri at the Venetian Macau Open on Sunday and thus secured his card for the 2016 Asian Tour season. It was the Delhi golfer’s best finish on the Asian Tour since his second place at the Indian Open 2011. With Chiragh getting back to form, he is likely to be one of the top contenders this week.

Seasoned professionals Mukesh Kumar of Mhow and Delhi’s Shamim Khan will bring all their experience to the fore in order to conquer the challenging layout of the Oxford Golf Resort. Mukesh (2008 Rolex Rankings champion) and Shamim (2012 Rolex Rankings champion), both winners in the 2015 season, are currently ranked second and third in the Rolex Rankings. They are the highest ranked players in the field this week and strong contenders for the title. Interestingly, both players have registered wins in Pune in the past.

Mukesh, a winner of more than 120 titles in India, said, “The Oxford Golf Resort compares to some of the top courses in Asia due to its phenomenal setting in the Sahyadri Hills and the immaculate playing conditions. The greens will be tough to read this week as a result of the hilly setting. I expect the winning score to be between 10 and 15 under.”

Bangaloreans Khalin Joshi and Udayan Mane and Gurgaon’s Shubhankar Sharma, all tournament winners on the PGTI, are some of the promising youngsters playing this week. Rookie Udayan Mane won in Jaipur earlier this month, in what was only the seventh professional event of his career. Mane, for whom Pune is a second home as his parents reside here, is currently seventh in the Rolex Rankings.

Khalin Joshi has posted a win and four other top-10s in the season so far to be placed fifth in the money rankings. Shubhankar Sharma, who has the distinction of being the youngest winner on the PGTI at age 17, is also inside the top-10 of the rankings as he currently occupies 10th place.

Mane said, “The western region of the country needs a lot of attention for the purpose of growing the sport of golf as there are currently very few professionals emerging from this part. The Western India Oxford Masters is therefore a step in the right direction. It’s a great joint initiative of the Oxford Golf Resort and PGTI.”

Anil Seolekar, Chairman, Oxford Group, said, “We conceptualized the Western India Oxford Masters in order to promote golf in the western region of the country. Our vision is to take golf to the grassroots and get more people involved in the sport so that we can have a large talent pool in the coming years just like the northern and southern regions.”

The international challenge will be led by the likes of Sri Lankans Anura Rohana, N Thangaraja and K Prabagaran, Australian Kunal Bhasin and Bangladeshi Md Zamal Hossain Mollah. While Rohana, Thangaraja, Bhasin & Zamal are all multiple winners on the PGTI, Prabagaran has one title under his belt.

The host city of Pune will be represented by the likes of Gurki Shergill (winner of 8th TATA Open 2009), Rajiv Niranjan Datar, Aditya Bhandarkar, Sameer M Shaikh, Pravin Pathare, Dinesh Kahar, Moinuddin Malak, Saurabh Bhaduri, Dinesh Raghuvanshi, Shubham Jindal and Sumedh Gangal. The leading talent from neighbouring Mumbai is Anil Bajrang Mane, who finished inside the top-50 of the rankings last year.