Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship: Anika Varma finishes inside top-10 in Abu Dhabi

Anika Verma GolfABU DHABI: India’s Anika Varma became the first Indian to post a top-10 in the history of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) championship, when a one-under par 71 final round helped her finish in tied ninth place in the premier regional tournament, which was won by Japan’s Mizuko Hashimoto.

On Saturday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National course, the 17-year-old Varma once again struggled with her putting, but the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) No.483 fought hard for a fourth consecutive sub-par round. Her 10-under par 278 was six adrift of champion Hashimoto (16-under-par 272).

Thai duo of Kan Bunnabodee (66) and overnight leader Natthakritta Vongtaveelap (72), along with Australia’s Kelsey Bennett (68), were tied second at 15-under-par 273.

Among other Indian players, Natalii Gupta (70), who is Dubai born and nominated for the tournament by the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), finished tied 13th place at six-under par. Bengaluru’s Avani Prashanth improved her first three day’s scores of 71 with a two-under par 70 to finish on five-under par 283 and in tied 16th place.

Sifat Sagoo (70) and Kriti Chowhan (69) were tied 25th and 34th respectively at three-under 285 and even-par 288 respectively.

A late bogey on the 17th hole dropped Varma a bit lower than what she expected, and she could not repair the damage on the par-5 18th, where she had a birdie putt from eight feet.

“My week's been filled with a lot of ups and downs. Some really good and amazing holes and some not so great. One of the highlights is that I only made three bogeys this week, which is pretty good,” said the Sacramento, US-based player.

“It is really nice to make a top-10 finish. But the only way is going up from here. So, hopefully, it gets closer and closer to winning a tournament.

“I like a lot of things I did on the golf course, but what pleased me most was my approach to the game. It has been so good this week. I want to carry it on for my next few tournaments and keep the momentum going. If I can finish in the top-10 in such a big tournament, it means I do know how to play golf, I am pretty good at it, and I just need to trust myself while playing.”

In the inaugural WAAP in Singapore in 2018, none of the six Indian players could make it to the weekend, while three players advanced in Japan the year after. Seher Atwal was the best placed at tied 28th. In comparison, five players made the cut this year, including Natalii Gupta, who was nominated by the hosts Emirates Golf Federation (EGF).

It was a wonderful finish for Gupta. The 17-year-old, born and brought up in the UAE, said: “I had a blast this week. It was so much fun. I’m thankful to be here. Thankful to be given the opportunity to play this week. It was not the best finish today, but I had fun.

“I’ve never played an event that’s this important and of this class. And it was pretty good to see the standards. But I thought I hit my goal this week.”

Prashanth, just 15 and winner of two Hero Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) Tour events this season, said: “I really enjoyed my round of 70 today, just because I was getting tired of shooting 71s!

“I am happy to finish inside the top-20 in my first WAAP, but it should have been better as I made so many birdies this week. I need to make less mistakes.”

Hashimoto, who made an eagle two on the par-4 third hole, continued an outstanding year for Japan golf. In April this year, Tsubasa Kajitani and Hideki Matsuyama were winners in back-to-back weeks in Augusta National Women’s Amateur and The Masters, and a similar story unfolded in the UAE with Keita Nakajima winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship down the road in Dubai last week.

Apart from the trophy, the 19-year-old Hashimoto also secured guaranteed starts next year in AIG Women’s British Open, The Amundi Evian Championship (both majors), as well as the Hana Financial Group Championship and an invitation to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.