Amritinder Singh grabbed an early lead on the opening day of the Rs 850,000 Cotton City Open, the second leg of the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour 2003-04 season at the Coimbatore Golf Club on Wednesday.
The Chandigarh pro submitted a card of three-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead over the second-placed Feroz Ali.
Veteran Shiv Prakash and Delhi pro Pappan occupied the joined second position, with a level-par 72 while nine pros shared the fifth position.
Defending champion and champion golfer of the year Mukesh Kumar shot a five-over par 77.
Amritinder Singh, who teed off in slightly hotter conditions than his compatriots in the morning session, missed a six-footer for a birdie on the par-4 second. However, "Baba" as he is fondly called was in great form, tackling the winds with aplomb. After a series of pars, Amritinder made his first birdie on the par-5 fifth and was two-on on the par-5 ninth. However he two-putted for a birdie.
The 32-year-old pro, who plays at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, began his return journey with a birdie. After a driver, 3-wood approach shot, Amritinder chipped to about 12 feet from the pin before sinking it.
With a strong tail-wind supporting him on the par-4 15th, he did not have to break much sweat in making his fourth birdie.
The lone bogey came on the tough par-4 eight where the second shot is crucial. The players have to cross a huge gorge to reach the green. After being in the centre fairway with the help of his driver tee-shot, Amritinder, in an attempt to play safe, pulled the shot and landed in trouble.
"I was lucky to get away with a bogey,"said Amritinder, who incidentally spent his formative years in Coimbatore. "I managed my game well. I knew the winds would trouble me and I was prepared for it," said the leader.
Meanwhile, Feroz Ali began with a bogey after teeing off from the par-5 10th. The headwind were so strong that despite two driver shots, Feroz was left with 50 yards from the green and duffed his wedge shot while making a bogey.
The 34-year-old then regrouped and made a birdie on the par-5 13th with a 20-footer and followed suit on the par-4 15th. However he missed a two-feet par putt on the next hole to make the turn at level-par. The 1999 Indian Open winner began with a birdie and followed it up with two consecutive birdies on the fourth and fifth, missing out a hole-in-one on the former.
Despite three-putting for a bogey on his penultimate hole, Feroz was happy with his putting. "I am happy about my round. I am feeling more and more confident about my putting. The greens are a bit tricky," said Feroz, who had finished second during the last edition.
Delhi pro Pappan who had a good show in the Hero Honda Indian Golf Tour season opener Kashmir Open, made two birdies and an equal number of bogeys to finish level par.
Veteran Shiv Prakash also returned a card of level par-72.
Top scores (after 18 holes): 69_Amritinder Singh; 70_Feroz Ali; 72_Pappan, Shiv Prakash; 73_Digvijay Singh, C Muniyappa, Rajesh Chaudhary, S Madiah, Gast Ram, A Divyanathan, Yusuf Ali, Magan Subbarao, Vijay Kumar. Amateurs: 75_Vignesh Rangar; 78_R Gopinath.