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Lalithakumara wins Indian amateur golf title

February 16, 2004 14:57 IST
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Top Sri Lankan amateur BG Lalithakumara turned in a dominating performance to demolish promising South African Matthew Kent in the final of the Eveready 103rd All-India Amateur Golf Championship, the second oldest golf tournament in the world after the British Open, which concluded at the par-72 Royal Calcutta Golf Club, on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Lalithakumara was in amazing form, winning by seven holes with six to spare in the grueling 36-hole final to reclaim the premier amateur title of the region, which he last won in 2001 at the Chandigarh Golf Club.

How impressive was the Lankan's performance can be gauged by the fact that despite making a double bogey, Lalithakumara was five-under for the 30 holes he played at the tough Royal Calcutta layout. He received the stunning trophy for the second time in his career from Mr BM Khaitan, Chairman, Eveready Industries, the title sponsors of the tournament.

"This is one of the happiest moments of my career. I am very happy to have regained the title. It is even more satisfying for me because I have played some very good golf this week. I expected it to be a tough fight against Matthew, and he played pretty well. But I think I played much better today," said the elated Colombo-based player, who plans to turn pro after winning the 2006 Asian Games gold medal for his country.

In the morning, Kent began in brilliant fashion when he drilled his second shot to less than three feet for a birdie on the opening hole to go one-up. But that advantage was negated on the very next hole, the par-3, where Lalithakumara sank his ten-feet birdie putt to restore parity. Both halved the third with bogies, the fourth with birdies and the fifth with pars, before Kent went one-up again on the sixth when the Lankan made a bogey from the greenside bunker. But it was back to all square when he bogied the very next hole.

The match went all-square till the 12th hole before Lalithakumara floored the accelerator. On the long and difficult par-3 13th, he sank a massive 35-feet putt from the apron for a birdie to go one-up and increased the advantage when Kent bogied the next hole. They halved the 15th with birdies and Lalithakumara went three-up when he canned a ten-footer for birdie on the 16th.

In the afternoon session, he increased the lead by two when Kent lost the third and fifth with bogies. A birdie on the sixth virtually sealed the issue for Lalitha on the sixth. Even though he lost the eighth by making a double bogey there, Lalithakumara closed the match in style by winning the tenth and 11th holes with birdies.

FINAL (Seedings in prefix and country in parenthesis): 3-BG Lalithakumara (SL) bt 4-5-Matthew Kent (SA) 7&6.

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