Indrajit Bhalotia, braving a bout of flu and high temperature, and fellow-Kolkatan Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia each blasted a six-under 66 to tie for the lead after the opening round of the Rs 800,000 HT Pro Golf 2003.
The tournament, being played at the par-72, Classic Golf Resort in Gurgaon, marks the 22nd leg of the Hero Honda Golf Tour's 2002-03 season.
Delhi's Gaurav Ghei was placed third one stroke behind the leaders at five-under 67, while Roop Singh (Chandigarh) and Dinesh Raghuvanshi (Pune) both shot a four-under 68 for the tied-fourth spot. The trio of Vijay Kumar (Lucknow), Shiv Prakash (Kanpur) and Rahil Gangjee (Kolkata) occupied the tied-sixth position at three-under 69.
Bhalotia is considered one of the longest hitters of the golf ball on the Hero Honda Golf Tour. The Classic Golf Resort, which favours this very skill, was therefore the ideal platform for a golfer like him to take center stage. The 30-year old pro has been suffering from viral fever for the past three days.
"I was down with temperature today but knew that if I could get it right from the tee, it would be half the battle won," said the Reebok-sponsored golfer.
Bhalotia started the day in steady fashion with three straight pars, before carding the first of his seven birdies on the fourth. This was followed by back-to-back birdies on the eighth and ninth. Three under at the lemon break.
"I was not really thinking about anything at this stage other than continuing with my game plan," said the Kolkata-based golfer. Bhalotia's return journey started with another birdie but a driver followed by a wayward lob wedge on the 12th placed him in the bunker from where he had to settle for a bogey. This was, however, undone by a hat-trick of birdies on the 13th, 14th and 15th.
Better known as 'Chip Putt Chowrasia', the 23-year old Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia admits to having a weak long game. Today, he covered up for that chink in his armour with some excellent putting, which has over the years earned him his nick-name. To top it all, he didn't hit his driver too badly either. Chowrasia, a first tee starter, sank a 12-feet putt for birdie on the second. Another birdie on the fifth was followed by birdies on the 11th, 14th, 15th and 18th on his back-nine.
"The putts on the 11th and 15th were 15 feet long while that on the 14th was a ten fee effort. I have been playing really well for the past four events. This is credit to the hard work I have put into my over all game," said Chowrasia, who won the Hero Honda Open West in Pune last month.
Gaurav Ghei has spent the last few days shuttling between home and hospital due to the poor health his father has been keeping of late. Today, however, the Delhi Golf Club displayed superb mental resilience putting all that behind him to return a superb round of 67. Ghei, who made some brilliant putts today, was surprisingly denied an even better round by that very aspect of his game. I missed putts five feet or less in distance on the seventh, ninth, 12th and 15th and two around ten feet long on the 16th and 17th," said the India Cements-sponsored golfer.
After starting on the first tee, Ghei struck early with a birdie on the second courtesy a superb 20 feet putt. Another birdie on the following hole was the result of a seven feet putt. On the tenth, he sank a ten feet putt for birdie before a driver and 5-wood on the 14th saw him find the cup with a 20 feet effort on the green for eagle.
Arjun, Chirag lead amateur field: Arjun Singh and Chirag Kumar led the amateur field at one-over 73 each. Madhav Verma and Aditya Singh were placed third at three-over 75.
Scores (after 18 holes): 66_Indrait Bhalotia, Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia; 67_Gaurav Ghei; 68_Roop Singh, DS Raghuvanshi; 69_Vijay Kumar, Shiv Prakash, Rahil Gangjee; 70_Ashok Kumar, Rafiq Ali; ; 71_Bhoop Singh, Sanjay Kumar.
Amateurs: 73_Arjun Singh, Chirag Kumar; 75_Aditya Singh, Madhav Verma.