Bengaluru, India (January 13): Pranavi Urs avenged a recent loss to fellow teen prodigy Anika Varma with a nail-biting sudden-death play-off triumph in the IIFL Wealth Golf Invitational Faldo Series India Championship.
Pipped for top spot by Varma at last month’s All India Juniors, it was Urs who emerged victorious in the 15th leg of the 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season at the Karnataka Golf Association, one of India's top-ranked courses, located in the heart of Bengaluru.
In the unfortunate absence of her Queen Sirikit Cup team-mate Diksha Dagar, 14-year-old Urs was pushed all the way by 13-year-old Varma, eventually prevailing at the first extra hole.
A bogey at the final hole of regulation meant Urs posted a 54-hole total of seven-over 223, matched by Varma, who made a par on the closing hole.
Returning to the 18th for the play-off, Urs struck a sweet approach that set up a two-putt par, while Varma, who started playing on the Indian National Circuit at the age of eight, could only manage a bogey.
Thanks to her win, Urs, the best-placed amateur at the 2017 Hero Women’s Indian Open, is now able to look forward to taking part in the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in early March.
Mysore-based Urs, who along with Varma is aiming to represent India at this year’s Asian Games, said: “In Vietnam, I just want to play how I played here (Karnataka Golf Association). I’ll take it shot by shot and hope to make India proud."
Also heading to the acclaimed Faldo Design course in Danang are other age group winners from the Faldo Series India Championship – Surya Kumar K (Boys’ Under-21), Rahul Ajay (Boys’ Under-18), Harshjeet Singh Sethie (Boys Under-16) and Tanirika Singh (Girls’ Under-21).
Although he finished one shot shy of joining the play-off, Kumar topped the standings in the eldest boys’ category to earn a starting spot in what will be the first international tournament in which he has played.
There was also delight for Ajay, who entered the final draw through an IIFL Wealth Golf Invitational Faldo Series India regional qualifier in Hyderabad. He finished four shots clear of Sunhit Bishnoi and left-handed Kartik Sharma, third in the Under-16 category at last year’s Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Like Sharma, fellow left-hander Dagar had been tipped to vie for top honours over the speedy greens at the Karnataka Golf Association course.
However, she was a late withdrawal after receiving a last-minute invite to the Australian Amateur. Sadly, Dagar’s visa could not be processed in time and she ended up missing out on both events.
Over the four days of the Faldo Series India Championships in Bengaluru, interactive seminars were organised for the golfers by a leading sports psychologist and fitness expert, as well as a rules clinic.
Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, Madhavi Manthani, South Zone Council Member of the Indian Golf Union, said: “The Nick Faldo series promotes junior golf in a good way and provides youngsters an opportunity to play on the international stage and face competition on that high level. The Faldo Series is held across the globe, and pitting our Indian juniors against the cream of the crop of young golfers across the world is great exposure for them.”
The 2017-18 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China and Thailand, championships are staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners.
Faldo Series India Championship, leading final scores:
224 – Surya Kumar K (73-78-73)
227 – Viren Thapar (78-71-78)
233 – Prakhar Asawa (78-80-75)
237 – Dhruv Suri (78-77-82)
225 – Rahul Ajay (71-77-77)
229 – Sunhit Bishnoi (73-78-78)
Kartik Sharma (74-75-80)
234 – Jay Pandya (78-81-75)
237 – Hardik S Chawda (82-80-75)
225 – Harshjeet Singh Sethie (76-77-72)
229 – Saurav Rathi (79-78-72)
231 – Raghav Chugh (80-72-79)
234 – Tushar Pannu (75-79-80)
237 – Aryan Roopa Anand (80-75-82)
232 – Tanirika Singh (78-74-80)
240 – Sifat Alag (82-82-76)
242 – Sanjana Ashwin (85-80-77)
223 – Pranavi Urs (79-71-73)
Anika Varma (76-74-73)
230 – Sifat Sagoo (79-78-73)
232 – Asmita Satish (77-78-77)
237 – Rhea Purvi Saravanan (77-77-83)