Sameer Shaikh flies high with flawless 63, takes round one lead at Golconda Masters

Sameer M ShaikhHyderabad: Pune’s Sameer Shaikh produced the best round of his professional career, a fiery bogey-free eight-under-63, to take the lead and stamp his authority on day one of the Golconda Masters 2017 being played at the Hyderabad Golf Club’s pristine par-71 course.

Bengaluru’s Khalin Joshi, a three-time winner on the PGTI, also posted an impressive six-under-65, to occupy second place at the end of round one of the Rs. 40 lakh event.

Sameer M Shaikh, the 27-year-old from the Poona Club Golf Course who turned pro back in 2012, was the man with the Midas touch at the HGC on Thursday.

Shaikh, who has never finished inside the top-60 of the PGTI Order of Merit till date, came within a shot of equaling defending champion Ajeetesh Sandhu’s course record (nine-under-62) from last year as he signed his first ever bogey-free card.

Sameer’s five birdies on the front-nine featured a chip-in from the rough on the fourth, two long conversions and a tap-in on the ninth. The Pune lad picked up three more strokes on the back-nine which included an astonishing recovery on the 15th where his tee shot had landed in trouble.

An overjoyed Sameer said, “I’m thrilled as this is my first ever bogey-free round. I think I surprised myself today. I had a poor 2016, having finished 76th in the money list. Not that I was playing badly. I was constantly missing cuts by one or two shots. I kept losing focus whenever I was in a good position.

“But I began this season with a fresh approach after receiving lot of inputs and encouragement from fellow professional Rajiv Datar who has many more years of experience than me and who is also someone I look up to.

“I’m now enjoying my game and keeping it simple instead of thinking too much about what I’m doing on the course. I could just see the fairways and greens today and the thought of conceding a bogey didn’t even occur to me. My caddie Akshay Damle also ensured that I stayed positive as he kept pumping me up.

“The amazing recovery on the 15th summed up my round. After landing my tee shot in trouble I had a difficult lie. But I somehow found the green from there thanks to my best shot of the day. I then sank a 13-footer for birdie surpassing my expectation of saving par.

“The aim will now be to post sub-par rounds from here on.”

Khalin Joshi, having put behind the disappoint of missing out on his Asian Tour card for 2017, made a splendid start to the week with a six-under that featured an eagle and six birdies at the cost of two bogeys.

Khalin drained a 30-feet eagle putt on the par-5 eighth and tapped-in for birdie on the par-3 11th. Joshi said, “I struck it well off the tee, better than last week, and also had a good measure of the greens. The swirling winds will be a challenge here at the HGC.”

Panchkula’s Angad Cheema, who had a top-10 at the season-opener in Noida last week, was placed third at five-under-66. Cheema set up his eagle on the par-5 17th after an outstanding approach that stopped three feet from the flag.

Former Asian Tour winner Himmat Singh Rai of Delhi shared fourth place at 67 along with Gurgaon-based Veer Ahlawat and Chandigarh’s Feroz Singh Garewal. Garewal produced an eagle-two on the par-4 15th.

Reigning champion Ajeetesh Sandhu of Chandigarh closed the day in tied 19th with a score of 70.

Noida’s Dipankar Kaushal struck a hole-in-one on the 11th during his round of 72. He was placed tied 42nd.

Haider Hussain, the lone Hyderabad-based professional in the field, returned a 74 to be tied 67th.

Among the six local amateurs competing, C Rohan Reddy was the best placed. He was in tied 76th as a result of his opening round of 75.