Pune golfers fall short on home course, but caddy-turned-pro Damale still the eagle to watch

Professionals understood the fast greens better and played the fairways to their advantage to steer ahead of the home players during the tournament.
Akshay Damle in action at the PGTI golf tournament on Thursday.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Akshay Damle in action at the PGTI golf tournament on Thursday.(Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
Updated on Apr 16, 2018 03:16 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | By Shivani S, Pune

The son of a painter and a housewife, Akshay Damale doesn’t come from the traditional ‘golf’ financial background. Yet, when the cut was made at the Professional Golf Tour of India’s (PGTI) Pune Golf Open at the Poona Golf Course last week, Damale, a caddy-turned-professional, was the only player who made it, that too, at the same course where he caddies.

Even though he finished with a level par, Damale was quite satisfied with his performance.

The Pune Open Golf Championship was Damale’s first PGTI tournament. “My main aim was to play well in the tournament. The course is tough, but if you hit the fairway, then it is all about understanding the greens,” the 22-year-old says.

This is not the last we will see of Damale. He is aiming to play the next PGTI event, Delhi-NCR Open Golf Championship in Noida, from April 17-20.

“My aim now is to play all the tournaments to gain experience. I can also see the different courses across the country in the process,” said Damale, who lives in Ashoknagar in Yerawada.

“Caddying is my job and livelihood. Even though I feel tired after training hard the whole day, I will have to continue to do it till I become financially stable,” said Damale, who hopes to turn his passion for golf into a career.

Honey Baisoya, ranked number 1 on the Professional Golf Tour of India’s (PGTI) Order of Merit, scored a course record total of 22-under-262 at the Poona Golf Course during the Pune Golf Open Championship.

Pune players, though, hardly made the cut, let alone match the leaders on the course.

Gurki Shergill, Pravin Pathare, Sameer Shaikh, and Sagar Raghuvanshi call Poona Golf Course their home course, but the pressure of playing at home got to them before they could even make the cut.

Professionals understood the fast greens better and played the fairways to their advantage to steer ahead of the home players during the tournament.

Gurki Shergill, one of Pune’s best players and the winner of 8th Tata Open in 2009, scored a 75-79 in two rounds while Sameer Shaikh, ranked 80th on PGTI and city’s top contender for the title, scored 76-70 in two rounds. “I think the pressure got to me. When you play your home course, you have the added pressure of performing well. I couldn’t play well on the first day, but managed to get a 1 under par on the second day. I was starting to get the hang of it, but couldn’t make the cut,” said Sameer.

Shaikh, who is training hard for the next PGTI event, said he hopes to make the cut there. “I need to forget what happened here and play the new course with a fresh approach. Golf is a mental game and I hope I do well at the next event to make Pune proud,” he said.

Sagar, who played a shade better than Sameer at the tournament, carded 74-71.

On his fellow player Akshay’s performance during the tournament, Sameer said, “I am very proud of my friend Akshay. It was his first tournament and he played really well. I hope to see him at the top in the near future,” said Shaikh.

Course record

On the new course record by the champion Honey, Sameer Shaikh, said, “The course was good and the conditions were favourable for a remarkable score and Honey played the course really well.”

Damale added, “He is a very good player. The (-22) score is a course record but the score was also possible because of the soft conditions of the course. I couldn’t understand the greens well because the lines were difficult to read. Otherwise, I would have played better than I did.”

Harendra Gupta and team win the Pro-Am event

The Pro-Am event of the Pune Open Golf Championship played at the Poona Golf Course was won by Chandigarh-based professional Harendra Gupta and his team. The Pro-Am was played in the Team Scramble format where the best ball was chosen on every shot. A Pro-Am event is one where ordinary golfers get to play with a tour professional. Most Pro-Ams are one-day affairs and a pro-amateur team competes against another such team.

PGTI member Harendra Gupta led his team to victory after the team accumulated a score of 51. The team had amateurs Arbind Kumar, Indraneel Mujgule and Sameer Biwalkar. PGTI member Udayan Mane helped his team finish second with a score of 52.3. Mane’s team had amateurs Faizal Khimjibhai, Yayati Pingle and Advait Gokhale.

The prize for the closest to the pin on hole no 2 was won by Vivek Tuljapurkar, whose shot landed 14 feet and five inches from the hole. The ‘closest to pin’ contest on hole no 16 was won by Tarun Mehrishi, whose shot landed 10 feet from the hole.

The prize for the straightest drive on hole no 14 was won by AK Shrivastava, who landed it at a distance of six inches from the centre of the fairway.

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