The speed at which Indian professional golf has recovered after almost two years lost to the Covid pandemic underlines both its deep roots and growing popularity.
Symbolizing this resurgence is the return of the Hero Women’s Indian Open (HWIO) for the first time after 2019, with the 13th edition of India’s only international women’s pro golf tournament to be played at the DLF Golf and Country Club in the third week of October.
Both domestic tours – the Professional Golf Tour of India and the Women’s Professional Golf Tour – are back in full swing and offering bigger prize purses than were available till 2019. Ever larger numbers of Indian professionals are appearing on the international stage – be it Anirban Lahiri on the PGA Tour and now LIV Golf or Aditi Ashok on the Ladies PGA in America.
The two are just the tip of the iceberg.
As many as 16 Indians were in the field for the recent Asian Tour event, the Yeangder Championship in Taiwan with 12 of them making the “cut’ and three – Rashid Khan, Ajeetesh Sandhu and Honey Baisoya –finishing in the top 10. A week later, Rashid Khan went one better with a second-place finish at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters.
Besides them, Shubhankar Sharma and Gaganjeet Bhullar play their trade as European (now DP World) Tour regulars.
On the women’s side, the numbers are relatively smaller but the results are there. At the Ladies European Tour’s Lacoste French Open in mid-September, all four Indians in the field made the cut, and Diksha Dagar, a former LET winner herself, took third place at Deauville.
The women’s tour, run by the Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) resumed full-time activity last year and so far in 2022, has already run 13 tournaments under the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour banner offering a total of Rs 1.14 crore as prize money. In between, the two Indian pro tours also held a first-ever mixed-field event, the Rs 30 lakh Ballantyne Golf Champion – Pro Challenge.
Pranavi Urs, a five-time winner in the 2022 season has so far pocketed in excess of Rs 13 lakh with second-placed Hitaashee Bakshi winning close to Rs 10 lakh.
With the return of the $400,000 Hero Women’s Indian Open from October 20 to 23 at the DLF course in Gurgaon, the women’s pro circuit could be said to be fully back on track. As yet, the men’s equivalent is yet to find its way back to the calendar though the Delhi Golf Club successfully hosted its inaugural $500,000 DGC Open presented by Mastercard in March.
HWIO 2022 will see a good number of domestic pros getting a chance to earn crucial world ranking points. Besides 2016 winner Aditi Ashok, the four women currently playing on the LET – Diksha Dagar, Tvesa Malik, Amandeep Drall and Vani Kapoor – stand to get automatic entry to the 114-strong field that has also drawn a number of past titleists including defending champion from 2019, Christine Wolff.
In addition, the top 15 in the current order of merit (money-winners list) get direct entry to the national Open in the following order: 1. Pranavi Urs, 2. Hitaashee Bakshi, 3 Seher Atwal, 4,. Gaurika Bishnoi, 5. Jahanvi Bakshi, 6. Ridhima Dilawari, 7. Neha Tripathi, 8. Khushi Khanijau, 9. Nayanika Sanga, 10. Shweta Mansingh, 11. Oviya Reddi, 12. Sneha Singh, 13. Asmitha Sathish, 14. Jyotsana Singh and 15. Saaniya Sharma.
With 13 completed tournaments, the WPGT will enter its final phase of the 2022 season post the Women’s Indian Open.
So far, Mysore teenager Pranavi Urs leads the way with five titles, followed by Gurgaon-based Hitaashee Bakshi with three wins. Five others – Amandeep Drall, Seher Atwal, Ridhima Dilawari most recently Gaurika Bishnoi have one win each while Hyderabad teenager Sneha Singh, who turned professional only recently, had the fifth win, but while still holding amateur status early on in the season.
The men’s PGTI tour has in 2022 completed 11 full tournaments besides a four-stage Qualifying School to launch the season that has till now put up a total of Rs 4.7 crore as winnings. Two others were co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and its feeder Asian Development Tour, the DGC Open and the Gurgaon Challenge 2022 offering a combined total of $575,000 ($500,000 and $75,000 respectively) back in March. Four of these tournaments have been held post the summer break that lasted from April to August.
Besides the enhanced prize money, the PGTI schedule this year includes seven new events, the co-sanctioned DGC Open and Ballantynes Challenge, the Chennai Open, the Kapil Dev-Grant Thornton Invitational 2022 (all completed), the Vooty Masters in Telangana, the S.S.P. Chawrasia Invitational at the RCGC in Kolkata and a yet to be decided tournament towards the end of November.
On the Tata Steel rankings (Order of Merit) Yuvraj Singh Sandhu of Chandigarh is in second place though with three titles each, he and Manu Gandas of Gurgaon are the season’s most successful golfers. Another Chandigarh player, Ajeetesh Sandhu tops the rankings list thanks to his runner-up finish at the inaugural holding of the $500,000 DGC Open.
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