Debutant Vani takes four-shot lead over Sharmila

vani kapoorBangalore: Vani Kapoor shrugged aside the nervousness of a professional debut with a stunning four-under 68 that gave her a four-shot lead going into the third and final round of the Rs. 10 lakh Hero-KGA Women’s Pro Golf 2012.

Vani, who trains under DLF pro Anitya Chand, had dominated the amateur Tour till recently. She admitted to being a bit jittery on the opening day. But on the second day she was once again her confident self. She blazed through with five birdies and just one bogey on a fine golfing day to move four shots clear of overnight leader, Sharmila Nicollet, who struggled on the greens during her round of 76.

Vani’s total for 36 holes is 143 while Sharmila is at three-over 147 and in second place behind in the first leg of the 2012 season of Hero-WGAI Tour.

Apart from Vani, veteran Smriti Mehra (71) was the only other player to bring home a sub-par round on Thursday. Smriti, winner seven times in 15 starts last year, made up for the slow start on the first day, as she added a 71 to the first day 77. At four-over 148, she is five behind Vani and one behind Sharmila.

Nalini Singh Siwach (76) and Neha Tripathi (78) were fourth and fifth at 150 and 151 as the whole field, barring Vani Kapoor, had a tough time on the greens.

“I was very nervous yesterday and went into water with my first shot as a pro. But then I managed to get to a 75. So my first goal today was a sub-par round. When I got to two-under without any bogeys on the front nine, I put a figure of four-under for the round,” said Vani. “But on the tenth hole after a driver and 7-Iron I tried to play safe and left myself 25 feet on the green. I missed my second putt (for par) from four feet. But the good thing it was the only bogey on my card.”

Accompanied by her girlish giggle, she added, “All parts of my game worked today. I had 11 fairways and 14 greens in regulation, though the 30 putts could have been a bit better. But I am happy. First pro tournament and I am in lead, so I can’t complain.”

Talking of pressure, Vani said, “There is no pressure really. I have played with all of them. Last year I won once in a pro event and was third in another and my game is in good shape. The course was playing fine and it was not windy either, so it was just a matter of being in better frame of mind.”

Vani’s good hitting also meant she had very few long putts like the 15-footer on the sixth, which was her first birdie. The birdie on ninth came from eight feet, while the birdies on 13th, 15th and 16th were inside six, three and four feet respectively.

Smriti had three birdies against two bogeys. “I played better today. The pins have been somewhat tough so the scores will not be as low. I was more steady today.”

Sharmila, who started the day with a double bogey after visiting the water hazard on the left off the first, was four-over within first four holes. Birdies on the fifth, her only birdie on a par-five, and eighth put some confidence back. On the back nine, she had two more bogeys and no birdies.

“I couldn’t buy a putt. I must have missed at least four from inside five feet. On the 11th I had an eagle putt but I ended with a par,” said a disappointed Sharmila. “But there is still one more day to go. The idea is to find rhythm in my game. Hopefully it will be there soon and I am working on it.”

Vani playing her first event as a pro will go out in the lead group with Sharmila Nicollet and Smriti Mehra and it should see some exciting action between what are quite easily the three strongest stars of Indian women’s golf.

The next two events will also be held in Bangalore, with the second leg at Clover Greens and the third leg at Prestige Golfshire, with a purse of Rs, five lakhs each.

The 2012-13 season is scheduled to have 10 events plus two Majors, one at the start of the season and one right at the end. The 10 events will carry a total purse of Rs, 70 lakhs, an increase of 66 per cent over the last year’s purse of Rs. 42 lakhs.

Leading scores (After two rounds):

143: Vani Kapoor (75-68)

147: Sharmila Nicollet (71-76)

148: Smriti Mehra (77-71)

150: Nalini Singh Siwach (74-76)

151: Neha Tripathi (73-78)

152: Saaniya Sharma (73-79) and Aditi Ashok (A) (74-78)

153: Shraddhanjali Singh (78-75)

By Indian Sports News Network