Gurugram: Bengaluru’s young trio of Viraj Madappa, S Chikkarangappa and Khalin Joshi will spearhead the home challenge at the inaugural US $300,000 Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship 2019 as they take on in-form Korean Taehee Lee and Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura. Lee is fourth and Kawamura is fifth in the Habitat for Humanity Standings for the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
Bank BRI Indonesia Open winner, Miguel Carballo of Argentina will be another strong contender this week as will be South African Daniel Van Tonder, who comes in with four Top-15 finishes in last five starts on Asian and Sunshine Tour in Africa. Sweden’s Malcolm Kokocinski, who had a very strong showing in 2018, including a maiden win in Bangladesh Open, will be also gunning for the lovely Classic Golf and Country Club International Championship Trophy and the winner’s cheque of US $54,000 which is accompanied by an Asian Tour exemption till the end of 2020.
While Madappa, Joshi and Kokocinski achieved their maiden breakthrough wins last year and full exemption onto the Asian Tour, Taehee and Carballo have won this season to signal their arrival.
Another strong home challenger will be Rashid Khan, who in 11 starts this season, including the Indian PGTI Tour, has had two wins, both on the PGTI, and six other Top-10s, including two on Asian Tour.
Ajeetesh Sandhu, who won in Chinese Taipei in 2017 and has had five other Top-3 finishes in last two and a half seasons, will also be looking for a good finish.
Meanwhile, among those waiting is Chikkarangappa, who has been knocking on the door for sometime and is expecting it to open any week. Kawamura won his only Asian Tour title in 2013.
However, when the action begins, rankings as usual will matter less than the ability of the players to cope with the intense heat and the course, which is hosting its first Asian Tour event since 2009.
The Classic Golf & Country Club, which last saw an international event 10 years ago, is in top shape and a lot tougher than it was when Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat won the Asian Tour event with a world record score of 32 under par 256.
With the course conditions more challenging, Khalin Joshi looked at 16-under as a likely winning score. With a full field of 156 contesting the $300,000 event that will be played at the par-72 course over 7,114 yards, it promises to be a tough test.
Madappa, who scored his breakthrough Asian Tour win at the Take Solutions Masters last year, said, “It will be up to each one to adapt as best as possible here. Putting together four good rounds will be testing, but that is why we play. I have played here before but not in these conditions and while the course looks in great shape, it will demand accurate play.”
Van Tonder said, “I’m coming here from Jakarta where we played the Indonesian Open and have to say the heat is much more than I had expected. I knew the temperatures were expected to be on the higher side, but it will definitely be a challenge coping over four days.”
Madappa added, “The setup we have seen in the last two days is such that you can attack the fairways and greens, but accuracy will be the key. The roughs are testing, and you need to stay on the fairway as much as possible.”
For many in the field, the event is an opportunity to make an impact on the Tour and further their career. “These full-field events as we call them, are the backbone of the Tour, said Asian Tour chief executive Cho Minn Thant.
“Good performances at such events can open many doors, as Viraj and Khalin have found among our other winners. For us, it is about taking care of our players and these events are a good example. Winners get an exemption for the rest of the season as well as for the following year, and if they can deliver at the next level, it opens up still more doors.”
B. Hariharan, Managing Director of Landbase India, which owns the golf course, said, “It is an opportunity to put not just the venue, but also the sport on centrestage. This is why we run this facility. To give our customers, in this case the players from the Asian and PGTI tours, the best experience is our aim and we have hopefully prepared the course to do just that.”
Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) Chief Executive Officer Uttam Singh Mundy, said, “Every opportunity we can give our players adds to their chances of making progress. Sponsorships are not easy to come by in golf, and the PGTI is grateful to the Asian Tour and to the Classic Golf and Country Club for helping provide our boys this stage.