Strong field set for Kensville Challenge


New Delhi: After attaining huge success in its inaugural edition last January, the Gujarat Kensville Challenge is back for a second year at the Kensville Golf and Country Club from January 26 to 29, 2012.


The Kensville Golf and Country Club is a Jeev Milkha Singh ‘Signature’ course. India’s leading golfer for more than a decade now, Jeev at a Press Conference on Tuesday announcing the event, said “Such events will give Indian golf a huge boost as our professionals battle it out with the up and coming European players.”


The 2011 staging of the Euros 200,000 event was the first-ever European Challenge Tour event to be held in India, and was won by India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar, who beat off a strong challenge to take the Euros 32,000 first prize.


Bhullar is set to return to defend his title and whilst this will undoubtedly be a huge draw, just as much of interest to the local golfing enthusiasts and the wider golfing world will be the professional debut of another much-awaited name - Peter Uihlein, a 22-year-old American, who is being referred to as the next Tiger Woods and has chosen to launch his pro career at the Gujarat Kensville Challenge.


23-year-old Bhullar, the first Indian to win a European Challenge Tour event, has won twice on the Asian Tour, and is seen as one of India’s brightest young golf stars. “I am looking forward to defending the title and give the year a good start,” said Bhullar, who recorded early year victories in both 2010 and 2011 - he will be hoping to start 2012 off in similar fashion.


Uihlein had a glittering amateur career, twice being voted America’s top junior player and retaining the World’s No. 1 Amateur spot for 52 weeks from June 2010 during which time he won the prestigious 2010 US Amateur Championship. He is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Thomas Bjorn (1995), Henrik Stenson (2000), Johan Edfors (2003), Marc Warren (2005), David Horsey (2008) and Edoardo Molinari (2009), who won the European Challenge Tour Order of Merit and have gone on to become big stars on the European and World golfing stages.


“We are delighted to be staging The Gujarat Kensville Challenge 2012, the second year of our commitment to bring world-class golf to India and Gujarat in particular. Last year’s event was a great success and, with Gaganjeet Bhullar winning, a great advert for the development of Indian golf at the top professional level. We are very excited about this year’s event with the introduction of the Qualifying Round to further expand opportunities for local players and the strength of the field - you can get no better testament to the event’s increasing pedigree than to have last year’s champion return to defend his title and a prodigious talent like Peter Uihlein choose to launch his professional career at Kensville” commented Sameer Sinha, Managing Director of the KGCC and Director of The Savvy Group, the tournament’s sponsor and promoter. Sinha was speaking at the Press Conference on Tuesday.


The event is co-sanctioned by the European Challenge Tour and the Indian domestic Tour, the Professional Golf Tour of India.


Alain de Soultrait, Director of the European Challenge Tour, said “We are delighted to be returning to Ahmedabad for the second edition of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, after the success of the inaugural tournament last year. The warm welcome we received from our hospitable hosts complemented the beautifully presented course at Kensville Golf Club, which drew widespread praise from our Members. With golf’s popularity increasing all the time in India, there is no better place to start our 2012 campaign.”


Mr. Padamjit Sandhu, Director, PGTI, said “The Gujarat Kensville Challenge has helped raise the profile of Indian professional golf. We at the PGTI are excited to host the second edition of the event along with the European Challenge Tour and the Kensville Golf & Country Club. This tournament is in sync with PGTI’s core objective of maximizing playing opportunities for Indian professionals. The event not only offers international exposure to Indian professionals and enhances the country’s reputation as a host for international golfing events but also showcases yet another world-class golf course in India.”


A field of 114 players will tee up for the event – 60 from the European Challenge Tour, 48 from the PGTI and 6 Sponsor Invites. Of the six Sponsor spots, three will be filled by the top finishers in a unique Qualifying Round to be held at the Noida Golf Course on Wednesday, 4th January for PGTI members not already in the main tournament draw.


Neeraj Sareen, Managing Director, ISM India, the event’s organisers, said “We have decided to organise a qualifier to expand the reach of the tournament and provide more opportunity for PGTI members outside of those already qualified to play in the tournament, with three out of the six Sponsor spots being allocated to the top finishers in the Qualifying Round. One of our key aims at ISM is to grow the game through means such as this qualifier, giving more Indian players a chance to play against the world’s best.”


Among other leading Indians expected to tee off will be former Asian Tour No 1 Jyoti Randhawa; Himmat Rai, winner of the 2011 ISPS Handa Singapore Classic; and Chiragh Kumar, winner of the 2011 PGTI Order of Merit.


The par-72 Kensville Golf and Country Club is 7,250 yards long and was hugely appreciated by the professionals last year. The European Challenge Tour event heralded the arrival of big time golf to Gujarat, which has showcased itself as a big investment destination.

By Indian Sports News Network