It was fitting that Gaganjeet Bhullar opened his account on the Asian Tour with the Indonesia President Invitational title.
Two years ago, Bhullar, 19, and in his maiden pro year, came tantalisingly close in the inaugural edition of this $400,000 event, but was pipped by a shot when Filipino Juvic Pagunsan produced a stunning birdie-eagle finish to triumph.
Though the outcome on Sunday was quite different, the build-up to the end was similar. Playing in the fifth to last group, after the organisers maintained the third round pairings due to delays caused by inclement weather, the Kapurthala youngster ended with a flawless five-under 67 (overall 22-under 266) before proceeding to the clubhouse to endure 40 minutes of anxiety.
Playing in the last match, Adam Blyth, who trailed Bhullar by a stroke going into the final day, was gallant in his endeavour for a maiden Asian Tour title, but failed in the catch-up game. Despite a two-putt birdie on the last hole, the Australian fell short by two strokes and finished with a tournament tally of 20-under 268.
“Sitting in the clubhouse, I knew what happened to me two years back. Adam played really well but it is a relief now. This win on the Asian Tour will get me into all co-sanctioned events and a lot of confidence,” Bhullar said after pocketing the $63,400 winner’s cheque.
Coming to Jakarta’s Damai Indah Golf Course straight from his first, though brief stint, in a Major — the 138th Open Championship, Bhullar was effusive on how, despite missing the cut, he had benefited immensely from the Turnberry experience. Coupled with it was the steady start that saw him tied 11th and five strokes shy of the leader after Day Two. The plot swung his way when Bhullar scorched the greens with a 10-under for Saturday. Not only did the Indian catapult to the top, the card ensured he opened a slender lead over Blyth, who had stayed put on the No 2 spot.
Bhullar’s fortunes were in contrast to Anirban Lahiri, who finished a disappointing joint 47th. Among the other Indians to finish, Rahil Gangjee ended T25th and Amandeep Johl managed a joint 35th finish.
As has become the trend in recent months, Bhullar, while pointing to the “sound ball striking”, did not forget the contribution of psychologist Pradeep Aggarwal, who is credited with inculcating the “difference in approach”. At 21, Bhullar became the youngest Indian winner on an international tour (Jeev Milkha Singh and Shiv Kapur were 23 when they won in Asia), but the stat did not seem to impress him. Even as he awaits “the many changes in his life after this victory”, uppermost is the relief of “ending the two-year wait”.