Karandeep Kochhar upsets big guns, becomes youngest player and first Indian amateur to win on PGTI

Karandeep KochharKolkata: The final day of the PGTI Players Championship presented by Tollygunge Club turned out to be one of the most memorable days in 17-year-old amateur Karandeep Kochhar’s fledgling golfing career. The Chandigarh lad wreaked havoc on the final day, shooting an eight-under-62, the best round of the tournament, to upset to some of the top professionals in the country en route his three-shot triumph.

Karandeep (66-68-62), who totaled 14-under-196 in the three-round event, thus became the youngest player to win on the PGTI at age 17 years and five months. He thus broke the previous record held by Shubhankar Sharma who won in Kochi in 2014 at the age of 17 years and eight months.

The six-foot tall class 12th student Kochhar set another record by becoming the first Indian amateur to win an event on the PGTI. Bangladesh’s Md Zamal Hossain Mollah is the only other player to have won on the PGTI as an amateur. He achieved the feat at the City Bank – Dhaka Bank Bangladesh Open 2009 played at the Kurmitola Golf Club in Dhaka. 

Om Prakash Chouhan of Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, claimed the runner-up spot at Tolly at 11-under-199 after his final round of six-under-64. Chouhan, however, took home the cheque of Rs. 4,50,000 for the best performance by a professional. 

Karandeep Kochhar, who played 28 holes on Friday due to the weather interruption on day two, rounded off a fairytale week thanks to his all-round performance. Interestingly, the teenager, who is currently India’s top junior golfer, had won a junior event at the same venue the previous week. 

Kochhar made one birdie in his remaining 10 holes from round two to close the penultimate round with a two-under-68 earlier in the day. His two-round total read six-under-134 at that stage which placed him in tied third, four shots behind the second round leader Digvijay Singh.

The bespectacled Karandeep took Tollygunge Club by storm in round three as he delivered six birdies against a lone bogey on the first 12 holes. He sank two 15-feet birdie putts and landed it within seven feet on three occasions to set up birdies. A great par-save on the 13th added to his confidence.

Kochhar, a winner of two junior titles this year, finally powered ahead with some outstanding drives on the 14th, 15th and 16th, that led to birdies. He converted his third 15-footer of the day on the 16th. It was a mere formality from there on as Karandeep led by three strokes with two holes to play. He displayed a cool head to seal it with two pars at the end.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win despite such a strong field of professionals here this week. This does wonders to my confidence and self-belief. It’s set me thinking about the right time to turn professional. I have to discuss it with my family back home whether it should be this year or next year,” said an excited Karandeep, whose only previous appearance in a professional event was at the PGTI’s Kolkata Classic earlier this year, where he missed the cut.

He added, “The win in the junior event at Tollygunge last week gave me a good feel of the conditions here and helped me raise my game this week. However, I would not have played this event had it not been for my friend and fellow golfer Rohan Kathuria. Rohan almost forced me to enter this event after my win last week. Shubhankar Sharma, who recently moved to Panchkula, also gave me the confidence to play in professional events when I spoke to him back in Chandigarh.

“My iron-play and wedge-play were outstanding in all three rounds. I also made some long putts today when it mattered the most.

“At the start of the day, I thought a top-5 or even a top-10 finish would be great. It never occurred to me that I would be in a position to win. I didn’t see the leaderboard till the 14th. That’s when I realized I was leading. I then drove it really well on the final stretch. There were some nervous moments on the last two holes but I didn’t lose focus,” added Karandeep, who attributes his early initiation into the game at the age of three, to his grandfather Dr. G S Kochhar.

Om Prakash Chouhan (68-67-64) climbed from tied seventh in round two to claim second position after his error-free third round of 64.

Gurgaon’s Digvijay Singh, the second round leader by two shots, slipped to tied third after a 70 in round three. He shared the third spot with Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi (68) at 10-under-200.

Shankar Das (67-67-69) ended the week as the highest-placed professional from Kolkata. He clinched tied seventh position at seven-under-203.

Final Scores after Round 3 (54 holes):

196: Karandeep Kochhar (66-68-62)

199: Om Prakash Chouhan (68-67-64)

200: Digvijay Singh (63-67-70), Khalin Joshi (67-65-68)

202: Shamim Khan (71-67-64), M Dharma (69-69-64)