Rookie Gauri Karhade stuns the field to win maiden title on Hero WPGT

Gauri Karhade in action during final round Boulder HillsHyderabad: Rookie Gauri Karhade playing only her sixth event as a pro on the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour, stunned the front runners, amateur Shreya Pal and the seasoned Gaurika Bishnoi, to land her first title on the circuit. Gauri, who turns 18 in October, has never finished above sixth on the Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour. She stayed calm and held her nerve to shoot a final round of 73 for a total of two-under 214 and win the 12th Leg by one shot over Gaurika Bishnoi (75) and Afshan Fatima (70).

Gaurika was unable to find a single birdie on the final day. Afshan Fatima, who made a great charge on the front nine with a two-under 34, held the lead midway through the back nine but dropped crucial back-to-back bogeys on 15th and 16th to fall into a tie for second with Gaurika at one-under 215.

Ananya Datar (72) with one birdie on front nine to go against the sole bogey on back nine, ended sole fourth at even par 216.

Overnight leader amateur Shreya Pal was unable to emulate her Hyderabad colleague Sneha Singh, as she fell apart. She had birdies on first and 18th, but in between she dropped four bogeys and two double bogeys for a card of 78 and ended in a tie for fifth place with Amandeep Drall (71) at one-over 217.

Playing the final group, overnight leader, Shreya Pal began with a flourish on the first with a birdie. But she dropped three bogeys in the next four holes. Gauri, starting the final day two behind leader Shreya and one behind Gaurika, was steady and she parred the first five holes, as Gaurika also dropped a shot on second.

Then it was Gauri’s turn to make a mistake with a double bogey on sixth, but Gaurika dropped a bogey on seventh and Shreya dropped a double bogey. That opened the door for Gauri. Meanwhile, Afshan was making a charge with three birdies against one bogey on the front nine.

After nine holes, it was still a very tight battle. Gaurika, who was four-under for two rounds, was still two-under after 45 holes. Four players, Shreya, Afshan, Gauri and Ananya Datar were at one-under after the front nine.

On the back nine, Gauri and Afshan found birdies on 11th and Gaurika bogeyed to let Gauri and Afshan move into the lead with the two-shot swing. Gauri dropped a shot on 12th to fall back and Afshan was sole leader.

Gauri and Afshan both birdied the 14th at which stage Afshan was ahead at three-under and Gauri was two-under. Gaurika stayed at one-under. Shreya, now five-over for the day after a bogey on 12th, fell back to even par.

Then it was Afshan’s turn to make mistakes and she made two in a row on 15th and 16th that allowed Gauri to sneak ahead. She only had to stay calm and get her pars. She did just that. None of the three, including Gaurika, made birdies on the last two holes, leaving Gauri as the victor.

Gaurika, unable to find birdies the whole day, ended Tied-second with Afshan, who after a great 14 holes made crucial errors to throw away a chance.

Gauri, who started playing at the age of 10 and learnt her early lessons in Thane and Kharghar, has honed her skills at the Poona Golf Club and now resides in Mumbai.

After a fair amateur career, she turned pro in the middle of this year. Before today, her best result came last week at the Hyderabad Golf Club, where she was sixth. Before that her only Top-10 finish was Tied-10th in the 10th leg in Bengaluru.

A hard working teen, she has been showing promise and a win at this stage will go a long way in boosting her confidence.

Siddhi Kapoor (74) was seventh, while amateur Sneha (74) was eighth, Gursimar Badwal (75) ended ninth and Ishvari Prasanna (75) rounded off the Top-10. Ridhima Dilawari (74) finished a disappointing 11th.

Despite the second place finish, Gaurika Bishnoi, a highly consistent golfer, stays on top of the Hero WPG Tour Order of Merit and became the first golfer this year to cross Rs.10 lakhs in earnings. She now has won Rs.10,49,700 and is trailed by Amandeep Drall with Rs.8,63,533 and Neha Tripathi with Rs.8,36,183. Ridhima Dilawari at Rs.7,50,233 and Gursimar Badwal at Rs.7,41,733 are fourth and fifth on the Order of Merit after 12 events.

The next event will be the 13th Leg at the DLF Golf and Country Club from August 28 to 30.