Abu Dhabi: The only thing in Anika Varma’s mind after a solid opening three-under par 69 round that placed her tied fifth at the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP), was thet she needed to finish her school homework.
The Sacramento, US-based 17-year-old, who burst into the limelight with a sensational fifth place finish as a 15-year-old at the 2019 Hero Women’s Indian Open, shot a bogey-free round with birdies on the par-3 fourth and seventh holes, followed by another on the 10th.
Varma was the best-placed Indian and three shots behind Thailand’s ‘Ms 300 yards’, Natthakritta Vongtaveelap, who enjoyed a two-shot lead after a brilliant six-under par 66 that featured seven birdies.
Eight Indian girls are in contention at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National course – two of them nominated by host nation UAE. Purdue University star Sifat Sagoo and 15-year-old Avani Prashanth, of Bengaluru, were tied 21st at one-under par. Sneha Singh, who won both the Junior and Amateur all-India title in 2019, closed at one-over par (T-39). Kriti Chowhan (76, T-60) and Nishna Patel (78, T-68) were the other players in the Indian team.
Varma, who is committed to join the University of Oregon team next year, was happy with her round.
“It was pretty good. I hit my irons well and I was good off the tee. I did not make all the putts, but that’s okay. Three birdies in a bogey-free round is always good,” said Varma, whose last WAGR event was a second place in West Coast Women’s Amateur in the US.
“I am just going back to my room and finishing my assignments. I am not thinking much about the round, and I am not expecting much from tomorrow’s round. I don’t set any numbers…just stay in the moment and play. I just want to play to the best of my ability. Doesn’t matter if I shoot a five-under or a even-par. As long as I know I gave it my best shot, I am happy.”
Sagoo, who started from the 10th tee, was coming in nicely at 3-under par, before making late bogeys on the fifth and seventh holes.
“I played well, except for that stretch of holes 5-7. I just became a bit conservative there and paid the price. So, that’s one thing I want to do tomorrow – stay aggressive throughout the round,” she added.
Prashanth was two-under par after 17 holes, before failing to make an up-and-down on the par-4 ninth hole – her last.
“That finish was very disappointing. I am a good bunker player and nine times out of 10, I will back myself to make a par from where I was. But I did all right out there and tomorrow is another day,” said Prashanth, who has won two Hero Women’s Golf Association of India events this season.
Natthakritta, who earned her nickname because of the phenomenal length she generates off the tee and often smashes 300-yard drives in domestic events, made a nervous start that saw her make an early bogey on the par-5 second hole. She was rarely in trouble on the golf course after that.
A group of three players from three different countries – Chun-Wei Wu of Chinese Taipei, Mizuki Hashimoto of Japan and Viera Permada Rosada of Indonesia – were in tied second place at four-under par 68.
A total of 78 players from 16 APGC nations are taking part this week. WAAP is one of the most important events in the calendar for players from the Asia-Pacific region, with the champion golfer getting guaranteed securing entries in the AIG Women’s Open and The Amundi Evian Championship (both major championships), as well as an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.