Pranavi S. Urs lived upto her billing as tournament favourite with a successful defence of her Faldo Series India Championship title.
Displaying skill and poise in equal measures, the Mysore teenager proved too strong for her rivals in the 14th leg of the 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season.
Having swept to the top of the leaderboard with a second-round, tournament-best four-under-par 68 at Jaypee Greens Golf Resort in Greater Noida, the Indian national squad member comfortably repelled the challenges of her pursuers.
Watched by Faldo Series Director Matthew Faldo, Urs posted a 54-hole aggregate of two-over 218, four strokes clear of second-placed Shaurya Bhattacharya, who himself staged a stunning final-day comeback to defeat in-form Arjun Bhati in the Boys Under-16 category.
Also with cause to celebrate were Keshav Mishra (Boys’ Under-21 winner), Aryan Roopa Anand (Boys’ Under-18 winner) and Tanishka Kumar (Girls’ Under-21 winner). All triumphed after tightly-contested contests.
Kumar edged past Gauri Karhade at the second hole of a sudden-death play-off. Karhade had led by one shot heading to the final hole but was left to rue a bogey which saw her and Kumar locked together after the regulation 54 holes.
Extra holes also seemed likely in the Boys’ Under-21 category with Mishra and Vignesh Thakur tied for top spot with two holes remaining. But a dropped shot by Thakur on 17 proved decisive.
Tension was equally high in the Boys’ Under-18 segment where Anand and Daksh Shokeen engaged in a thrilling head-to-head battle. When he made birdie at 13 to extend his lead to two, Shokeen appeared to be in pole position. Refusing to bow to the pressure, Anand halved the deficit at 14 before reclaiming a narrow advantage with a birdie at the short 16th, where Shokeen bogeyed. From there he held on.
Mishra, Anand and Kumar will join Urs and Bhattacharya as India’s representatives in the 13th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam in March.
For 15-year-old Urs, the showpiece will provide her with another opportunity to boost her R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking ahead of taking up a golf scholarship at the Albany Academy in the Bahamas.
Joint second in the Girls’ Under-16 Division at last year’s Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, it will also offer her the chance to become the first Indian female and fourth Indian (after Rashid Khan, Abhijit Chadha and Arjun Prasad) to claim the prestigious regional title.
At Jaypee Greens, Urs took control during a second-round 68 that contained seven birdies and saw her move two shots ahead of 14-year-old Bhati, winner of last month’s US Kids Junior Golf World Championship in Malaysia.
However, Bhati’s bid for victory faded quickly in the final round with three double-bogeys in an outward 45. Although he steadied the ship with an even-par back nine to sign for an 81, the damage was done with Urs able to enjoy a stress-free stroll down the closing stretch.
Bhati’s disappointment was compounded by the fact that his seven-stroke overnight lead in the Boys’ Under-16 was wiped out by Shaurya Bhattacharya, whose excellent closing 70 earned him an unlikely success.
“Many thanks to the Indian Golf Union and Rishi Narain Sports Marketing for their efforts in promoting and organising the Faldo Series India Championship,” said Matthew Faldo.
“I was delighted to make my first visit to India to attend the tournament and to see for myself the enthusiasm there is for the game – and also the tremendous talent.
“India has already produced players who have won on the PGA Tour and European Tour and I know Sir Nick believes it won’t be long before the country is celebrating its first male and female Major champions. We hope the Faldo Series can continue to be an important stepping stone for India’s leading juniors on their way to the professional game.”
The 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China and Thailand, championships are being staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners, while Thidapa Suwannapura (2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) and Nasa Hataoka (2016 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) both won on last year’s LPGA Tour.
Faldo Series India Championship, leading final scores: Boys’ Under-21: 228 – Keshav Mishra (75-74-79). 229 – Vignesh Thakur (80-70-79). 236 – Anmol Handa (71-84-81). Boys’ Under-18: 233 – Aryan Roopa Anand (77-78-78). 234 – Daksh Shokeen (80-75-79). 247 – Kritein Gandotra (84-81-82); Varun K. Murugan (80-84-83). Boys’ Under-16: 222 – Shaurya Bhattacharya (77-75-70). 226 – Arjun Bhati (75-70-81). 234 – Milind Soni (78-80-76). 238 – Tushar Pannu (83-76-79). 242 – Krish Patel (79-82-81). Girls’ Under-21: 236 – Tanishka Kumar (79-77-80); Gauri Karhade (74-83-79). 238 – Asmita Satish (77-81-80). 242 – Lakhmehar Pardesi (79-86-77). Girls’ Under-16: 218 – Pranavi Urs (75-68-75). 225 – Nayanika Sanga (73-78-74). 226 – Anika Varma (74-75-77). 229 – Jahanvi Bakshi (78-73-78). 230 – Hitashee Bakshi (75-77-78).