Chikka rallies from six-hole deficit to retain All India golf title

Sunday, February 6, 2011

BANGALORE - Defending champion S. Chikkarangappa held his nerve to fight back from a massive six-hole deficit to outlast Pritam Haridas in the marathon final of the 110th edition of the All India Amateur Golf Championships here Sunday.

Chikka, who last year became the youngest All India Amateur, thus retained the title. He won 3 and 2 on the 34th hole after a sizzling back nine in the afternoon.

In the womens category, Delhi golfer Gauri Monga denied Shreya Ghei a repeat win, beating her 2 and 1 in the final that ended on the 17th.

The 17-year-old Chikka, starting as a heavy favourite, found himself six-down in 12 holes in the morning.

“I do not know what happened. I was playing bad golf. I was neither finding the fairways, nor the greens,” said Chikka.

“But I told myself I just needed to get into the fairway and stay calm. Even at six-down after 12, I spoke to my caddie and said, we still have 24 holes to go. It is a long match.”

It was also the time his coach, Vijay Divecha, started walking along and that calmed his nerves.

The first turning point in the match probably came towards the end of the morning session. From 15th to 18th, Chikka suddenly discovered his rhythm and Pritam seemed to have lost his.

“I had lost four in a row in the middle of the round and then as the first 18 was coming to an end, I won four in a row to reduce the gap to just two holes. At that stage I knew I had a chance,” said Chikka.

Into the second session, as the blazing sun beat down on the Karnataka Golf Association course, Chikka started the session with a lot of hope. But Pritam, who came through the pre-qualifying to make the main draw and then the final, won the fourth hole (22nd hole) in the afternoon to once again open up a three-hole lead. He held that lead till the 25th hole.

But thereafter it was Chikka all the way. He won the eighth hole (26th of the match) and the next one. With nine holes left, Pritams lead was now down to one hole.

Chikka won the tenth (28th hole) to square the match and then for the first time took the lead on the 12th (30th). He won the 14th and 15th with birdies to go three-up with three holes to go. As the duo halved the hole, Chikka did a victory leap to release all that pent-up emotion.

I am so elated. It was my toughest match ever. I love matchplay situation, but today Pritam was also playing great,” Chikka added.

Chikka became only the fifth Indian, and the fifth player to win back-to-back All India Amateur titles in post-Independence India.

The first Indian to do so was the legendary IS Malik in 1955 and 1956. The ones to follow him were PS Billoo Sethi in 1961 and 1962, and then Alan Singh, now the Indian teams coach, in 1975 and 1976. The last one to achieve this feat was Amit Luthra in 1994 and 1995.

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