Veteran pro Shiv Prakash braved the strong winds and a drizzle at the Classic Golf Resort in Gurgaon to return a card of five-under 67 and perch himself atop the leader board at the half-way stage of the Rs 800,000 HT Pro Golf 2003.
An overnight total of three-under 69 helped the Kanpur pro tally eight-under 136 and displace overnight joint-leaders Indrajit Bhalotia and Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia. The duo from Kolkata were tied for the second spot with just a stroke behind the leader.
Two other pros from the 'City of joy' -- Rafiq Ali and Rahil Gangjee shared the joint fourth position with a total of six-under par 138 while Gaurav Ghei was in sole sixth spot with an aggregate of 139.
As many as 52 professionals and three amateurs made it to the money-making rounds after the cut was applied at nine-over 153.
Shiv Prakash, who had taken a break for a couple of months to attend to his ailing mother back home in Kanpur, grew confident after a superb eagle on the par-5 third where his driver-driver shots landed him on the green for a 15-feet eagle opportunity. After a birdie on the sixth, Shiv hit a bad second shot with a pitching wedge and landed on the collar of the green and failed to make the chip and putt and had to settle for a bogey.
However, the 43-year-old pro made amends on his return journey with a birdie on the 12th and signed off with successive birdies on the finishing holes. Despite the fact that he missed three birdies (1st, 11th and 14th) narrowly, Shiv was quite pleased with his performance.
"It's been quite a long time since I have had such a round. I am really keen to win the first title of the season. My putting isn't that good but the general feel is good," said Shiv who had a total of 31 putts for the day.
Earlier, Indrajit Bhalotia and SSP Chowrasia played contrasting rounds of golf but returned similar cards of one-under 71. The Reebok-sponsored Bhalotia made two birdies on the 10th from where he teed off and the other on the eighth. The Kolkata golfer missed a four-feet putt after coming out of the bunker to record a solitary bogey. "I am hitting the ball well but it is the putting where my game has been a little suspect," said Bhalotia.
Meanwhile, Bhalotia's compatriot played a bogey-free round making a lone birdie on the 18th. The 24-year-old pro missed ample chances of making birdies from short distance.
"I was reading the line wrong. But I am not perturbed by the fact. I hope to make it from here," said Chowrasia who won the Hero Honda Open West title in Pune, a fortnight ago Rafiq Ali, meanwhile, submitted a card of four-under 68 to tally six-under 138. Teeing off from the 10th, the Kolkata pro birdied the 12th and also recorded a hattrick of birdies starting from 14th. However a bogie-birdie finish on the 18th and sixth respectively, gave Rafiq an outside chance to catch up with the leaders. Citymate Rahil Gangjee had a superb front nine where he sank five birdies. A chip-in on the 13th was his pick of the lot.
After beginning his back-nine with a birdie and saving a note-worthy par on the third, Rahil struck a bad patch incurring three bogeys. "After that par on the third, I thought everything was working for me until the storm took away my form," said the 24-year-old golfer.
Scores (after 36 holes): 136_Shiv Prakash (69,67); 137_Indrait Bhalotia (66,71), SSP Chowrasia (66,71); 138_Rafiq Ali (70,68), Rahil Gangjee (69,69); 139_Gaurav Ghei (67,72); 140_Ashok Kumar (70,70), Vijay Kumar (69,71); 141_Jaiveer Virk (72,69), Bhoop Singh (71,70); 142_Ajay Gupta (73,69), DS Raghuvanashi (68,74) Roop Singh (68,74), 143_Basad Ali (72,71), D Patel (72,71), Ranjit Singh (72,71), Yusuf Ali (72,71).
Amateurs: 149_ Aditya Singh (75,74), Chirag Kumar (73,76); 153_Sandeep Verma (79,74).