CHIKKARANGAPPA S - Two unforgettable shots in two different pressure situations for Chikka

Birdie putt, par-5 18th, first play-off hole

2013 CG Open at Bombay Presidency GC

The PGTI’s ‘Class of 2013’ included some of the most talented young stars in the country to turn professional that year. Among them was the fresh-faced Seenappa Chikkarangappa – a Cindrella Story of Indian golf having graduated from being a ball boy looking for daily wages at Eagleton Golf Resort at age 10 to winning back-to-back All India Amateur Championships at 18.

It did not take Chikka long to make his presence felt in the professional ranks. In his first nine starts, the then 20-year-old made eight cuts, with six top-10s and finished second to his mentor Anirban Lahiri when the Tour visited their home club Eagleton for the Eagleburg Open.

A win, which would fully validate his decision to turn pro, was missing in that start though, but Chikka knew he was not far away. The finally happened one glorious late November evening at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club (BPGC).

A maiden win in pro ranks is a most cherished feeling. However, it became even more special for Chikka because he defeated Rashid ‘King’ Khan in a mano-a-mano situation at the big-money Crompton Greaves Open. Khan was enjoying a stupendous season that saw him win twice and finish second in the Asian Tour co-sanctioned SAIL-SBI Open en route to clinching the Order of Merit honour at the end of the year.

On Sunday, Chikka started three behind Khan, but soon caught up with the leader. With rest of the field left far behind in their wake, it was a battle between two of India’s brightest young stars. Khan wasn’t having the best of days on the golf course, but he is not one to give up so easily either. Two birdies in his last three holes saw him finish tied at the top after regulation 72 holes at 16-under par and force a play-off.

The advantage, and the momentum, was now with Khan. On the par-5 18th hole, both players were in the greenside bunker in two, with Khan in a slightly better position inside the bunker and Chikka in the rough just above the bunker wall, but staring at a shot with an awkward stance.

Khan splashed out to 20 feet from the pin, while Chikka chipped to 15 feet. Both had tough birdie putts….Chikka’s being a downhill, right-to-left slider.

Khan missed, but Chikka buried his right in the middle of the cup to end the contest.

“Once Rashid missed his putt, I really wanted to make mine. I desperately wanted to get my first win and to beat Rashid, who was having such a terrific season, was extra sweet,” said Chikka.

“I think my expression (see picture) after making the putt said it all. I was so happy to get my first win, and that too in my first season as a pro.

“It may not have been the greatest shot I ever hit, but it definitely remains unforgettable for me.”

Chikka faced far greater pressure when executing another memorable shot of his – during the Asian Tour’s year-ending Indonesian Masters in 2017 with his card on the line.

The Bengaluru pro was struggling with his game throughout the season, missing 13 cuts in total and reached Manila on the back of four straight missed weekends. He was 67th in the Order of Merit and a top-20 finish looked mandatory to get into the top-61 and secure his card for 2018.

Spending a couple of days with his mentor Lahiri in Ahmedabad seemed to have done the trick as he opened with three good rounds to be 12-under heading into the final round.

However, Sunday wasn’t going as per plans. Chikka, set back by an early double bogey on the second hole, reached the 18th at three-over par. A par, preferably something better, had now become a must at the closing par-5 hole of Royale Jakarta Golf Club.

A good tee shot sets up a birdie opportunity, but Chikka smashed his into thick rough. He was now faced with a difficult choice – either chip it out from the gnarly rough in which his ball was sitting down, or try to somehow muscle a shot that clears the water hazard in front of him. Chipping out would make an up-and-down for par mandatory because he would never be able to reach the green in three from where he was. Crossing the hazard gave him that chance of hitting the green in regulation and putt for a possible birdie.

“Clearing the water meant a carry of 155 yards. The ball was so deeply nestled in the rough, the only option was wedging it out. I decided to go for broke. I took out my 9-iron and gave that shot all I had. It probably cleared the hazard by a foot at most and rolled out to the fairway. From there, I reached the green and two-putted. Given the situation, that really was some shot,” reminisces Chikka.

The par helped him finish tied 20th and make a cheque of $7,942.6 that week and rise to exactly 61st in the Order of Merit on $51,431. Just $433 ahead of China’s Liu Yan-wei.

How important was that 9-iron shot? If Chikka finished one shot worse, he would have tied for the 25th place at 8-under par, which would have meant a cheque of $6,825. He would have lost his card by $684.6.

By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)

About PGTI:

Formed in 2006, Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) is the recognised official body of professional golf in India. PGTI's objective is to promote professional golf in the country, as well as to give players an opportunity to be involved in the decision making on all aspects of the game. Headed by Mr. Gautam Thapar (President), PGTI's governing body comprises leading Indian golf professionals. PGTI currently has over 300 members.

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