Vinod Kumar, one of the most underrated talents on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour, stole the limelight with a course record-breaking round of nine-under 63 to assume the lead after the opening round of the Surya Nepal Masters 2005, being played at the par-72, Le Meridien Kathmandu Gokarna Forest Golf Resort.
The leader broke the course record of eight under 64, held jointly by fellow Delhi golfers Shiv Kapur and Ashok Kumar.
The record was set at this very event last season.
Meanwhile, local talent Ramesh Nagarkoti gave a clear indication of the fast growing stature of Nepalese golf, with a round of five-under 67 to be placed second.
Bangalore's S Madhaiah was placed third at 68, while another Bangalorean, C Muniyappa, was tied fourth with Nepal's Toran Shahi, Kolkata's Feroz Ali, Delhi's Ajai Gupta, Gurbaaz Mann and Amritinder Singh (both Chandigarh) at 69.
Second-ranked golfer on the Amby Valley PGAI Tour's 2005-06 Order of Merit Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia, returned a card of even-par 72 to tie 20th.
Local golfer Uttam KC stole a share of the limelight with a hole-in-one on the tenth. Uttam won his weight in McDowell's Signature whisky for his effort.
"Take your time over each shot. Don't be hasty." These words rang continually in Vinod Kumar's ears all through his round on Wednesday. The advice was one that was not to be taken lightly, coming as it did from a living golfing legend, Rohtas Singh, incidentally Vinod's maternal uncle.
Vinod had enough reason to be concerned when he stood on the first tee box of the Gokarna course. Prior to this round, he had been but a shadow of his usual self with only two top-ten finishes to show for in eight outings in the 2005-06 season. However, Wednesday changed all that.
Vinod teed off from the first and started steadily enough with a par. What followed was magical. Birdies were strung together in the next seven holes, included two twenty-five feet efforts into the cup, one on the fourth and the other on the sixth.
"I was in a kind of daze," said Vinod, who lost track of his score after a bit.
Ironically, his first bogey on the ninth resulted from a missed one-foot par putt. On his return journey, Vinod birdied the 11th, nearly eagled the 12th but missed another one-footer to settle for birdie, birdied the 15th, dropped a shot on the 17th but finished in style with a birdie on his closing hole.
"It feels great to break the course record and I dedicate this effort to my sponsors Mercedes Benz, who have kept their faith in me despite my poor form this season. I now want to win this tournament for them," he added.
Just for the record, Vinod missed just one green in regulation today and finished with 26 putts.
Nagarkoti erred only once today and this on his opening hole. A tenth tee starter, the 35-year old Royal Nepal Golf Club pro was the victim of the biting cold and first tee blues. He however made up with an eagle on the 12th where his driver, six-iron combine handed him a four feet putt to negotiate.
On his back nine, Nagarkoti birdied the third, fifth, seventh and ninth, with his final birdie resulting from a 13 feet putt in full view of his supporters at the club house.
"I am feeling really great as this is my career's best round in a professional tournament," said the smiling golfer.
Fiorano Software-sponsored Madhaia's round saw him accelerate early on to record birdies on the third, seventh, eighth and ninth. Four-under at the turn, the 24-year-old birdied the 12th, but three-putted to drop a shot on the 13th. Another three-putt on the 15th forced him to settle for par and a bogey followed on the 16th. He however made up with a birdie finish to his round.
Nepal's top-ranked pro Deepak Acharya, erred early with a double-bogey on the11th. On this par-five, he lost two balls but sank a 40 feet putt on the green to record a seven. This was followed by a bogey in the 14th and bogeys on the 17th and 18th. On his back-nine, the 30-year old bogeyed the sixth, eagled the seventh and birdied the ninth to finish at three-over 75.
SCORES (after 18 holes): 63 Vinod Kumar; 67 Ramesh Nagarkoti; 68 S Madhaiah; 69 C Muniyappa, Feroz Ali, Ajai Gupta, Amritinder Singh, Gurbaaz Mann, Toran Bikram Shahi; 70 Nabin Mondal, Gurki Shergill, Mohd. Salim, Uttam Mundy, Shamim Khan.
Nepal pros: 67 Ramesh Nagarkoti; 69 Toran Bikram Shahi; 73 Deepak Thapa Magar; 75 Deepak Acharya; 76 Pashupati Sharma.