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Rookie French golfer Chevalier wins Hero Women’s Indian Open

By Deepak Arora

GURGAON, Nov 12: Camille Chevalier produced a fairy-tale finish with birdies on the last two holes to grab the Hero Women’s Indian Open from under the overnight leader Michele Thomson’s nose. Coming into her own and finding her rhythm just as at the right time, Chevalier, who turns 24 next month, birdied five of her last eight holes and sprinted past the field to win by one.

Chevalier (67) ended at 12-under 204, while Thomson (71) was 11-under 205. There was a three-way tie for third with Carlota Ciganda (70), who spiced up the front nine with an eagle and two birdies, Anne van Dam (67), who had eight birdies against three bogeys, and Sarah Kemp (71).

Vani Kapoor (72), playing her seventh Hero Women’s Indian Open and the fifth as a pro, registered her best result ever on the LET at Tied-seventh alongside Klara Spilkova (70) and Celine Boutier (72). They finished at 7-under 209.

Defending champion, India’s Aditi Ashok, just couldn’t get her putts to drop as she carded 72 and finished at 4-under 212 and in T-13 position, while Gaurika Bishnoi (77) was off-colour and finished T-44.

Amateur Pranavi Urs, the only other Indian to make the cut (79) and she finished T-61st.

Vani was thrilled with the result despite the two bogeys on back nine that derailed her challenge. “I’ve been playing this tournament for the past seven years and have been waiting to have my week. I’d very happily take this, finishing sixth. The final day didn’t go as I expected it to. It was the first time I was in contention, and I was a bit nervous as well.”

On her status on LET, she added, “I think I should now be able to make my card and I am very happy about it.”

For Vani, the earnings of US$ 9,639 pushed her to 73rd place with US$ 17,749. The Top-80 keep the card, but many of those who have played less than five events will come off the list and Vani could improve her position. Vani is due to play the Sanya Ladies in China next week and could get an invite to the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies.

Chevalier became the third successive LET rookie to win the Hero Women’s Indian – Aditi Ashok in 2016 and Emily Pedersen in 2015 did that – and before them Caroline Hedwall was the first to do so in 2011.

She confessed, “I really didn’t get affected by anything, because I didn’t expect that I was going to win. I was more concerned about keeping my card for the LET next year, because I was border line, so I’m really happy to be keeping my card because I was so stressed about it.”

For a good part of the day, it seemed Thomson on the verge of her own dream story. Coming back to pro golf after a four-year hiatus from 2009 to 2013, she made her way to the LET through the LET Access Tour this year and nearly won.

The cop-turned-golfing star, Thomson blitzed the course on Saturday with a record-breaking 8-under 64, had a great front nine with four over birdies. It seemed the door was firmly shut and Thomson had bolted away with the trophy.

The back nine is where the drama began. Thomson bogeyed ninth and tenth and door opened slightly and when she double bogeyed the Par-4 14th. She blocked her drive into the hazard on the right, took a penalty drop and them came out only to miss the green.

As she double bogeyed, her playing partner Chevalier birdied the hole for a three-shot swing. Thomson dropped to 10-under and Chevalier, who birdied the 11th and 12th to get 9-under, added another birdie to climb to 10-under.

Thomson fought back to take a slender lead with a birdie on par-5 15th, which Chevalier failed to birdie. A birdie on 17th meant they were level again, raising possibilities of a play-off.

The French girl played a bold second shot on the 18th over the water and the ball landed on the slope and rolled towards the hole and stopped three feet from the pin. Thomson’s second shot was 15 feet from the flag.

As Celine Boutier, the third player in the group, found her only birdie of the day, Thomson missed hers. Chevalier made no mistake with the three-footer and the trophy was hers.

As a fan of Roger Federer, the French youngster Chevalier, who played tennis for almost 10 years, shifted to golf only when she was 15. “I played 10 years of tennis when I was younger and I really loved it but I was better in golf. I stopped practicing as much when I was 15, because I wanted to focus on golf and school,” she revealed.

She gushed, “I’m really happy because I’m a rookie and I just won a tournament, so it’s awesome. I can’t wait to celebrate with my friends. It’s super special and I love it. I just won and I’m so excited!”

On the contrasting front and back nines, she said, “On the front nine I couldn’t make any putts and then on the back nine I just started to make putts. I really didn’t think about winning. I was just trying to play well on every shot and stick to my game and keep my concentration. I was really focused on every single shot and I didn’t think about anyone else.”

Chevalier added, “It was awesome and I’m really going to remember this week because it was my first win on tour, in India. I love India.”

Thomson was graceful in her defeat, as she said, “Yes, I am disappointed but I will take back a lot of positives and will try and do one better next time. I would like to get a win, but also play solid golf and see what happens. I went to the LPGA q-school 2nd stage and missed by one, so have some status on the Symetra Tour - will play some events there.”

She added, “Just like yesterday I kind of thought things are going to go the same way (after being 4-under through 8). I was going to go out and try and make as many birdies as I could. Obviously, yesterday was the kind of day where nothing went wrong. Today had a great start again and was trying to make the same score but the putter went cold on the back nine, missed by one. There were a couple of mistakes on the back nine - but can’t take anything away from Camille, she played awesome and congratulations to her. Next week I am in China.”

On Day 2, Michele Thomson Leads At Hero Women’s Indian Open

GURGAON, Nov 11: Michele Thomson, a prodigy-turned-constable-turned-record breaker opened a handy three-shot lead over the rest of the field, as the Gary Player course at the DLF Golf and Country Club finally yielded mouth-watering scores for the first time in three years.

Thomson smashed the existing record of 5-under set by Thai Kongkraphan Patchrajutar in 2015 and by Marianne Skarpnord on Friday, by three shots.

Even as the focus was Thomson, India’s Vani Kapoor (69-68) finished birdie-birdie to get a share of the crowded second place at 7-under. Vani, teeing off from the 10th, once again took time to find her momentum as she turned in one-under. On the second nine, the front stretch of the course, she bogeyed the first, but birdied four times on second, fourth, eighth and ninth.

Tied with Vani for the second place were three other players, French duo Camille Chevalier (68-69) and Celine Boutier (71-66) and Australian Sarah Kemp (71-66).
Lurking right behind them at 6-under 138 was Spaniard Carlota Ciganda (70-68), with six others Titiya Pluckasataporn (71-68), Meghan MacLaren (69-70), Belen Mozo (74-65), Olivia Cowan (69-70), Klara Spilkova (69-70) and Lydia Hall (72-67) one shot behind them at tied seventh.

It was ten years ago that Thomson first came to India as a prodigious amateur to play in Bangalore at the Emaar-MGF Masters. She finished T-64. A decade later, she is back here on a sponsor’s invite from Hero, for the Hero Women’s Indian Open. “I requested an invite after Abu Dhabi,” she said. Those 10 years in between are a story in itself – working in the police, working in a pro shop and meeting Donald Trump, too.

The one-time prodigy, now 28, has seen it all. Literally. From losing her mother Eleanor at 11; to being a Scottish Amateur champion and making the Curtis Cup team, which she recalls was fun, because there were teammates to share the joy with.

She turned pro in 2009 and did begin fairly well if not spectacularly. However, after just ‘half a season’ or so, she gave it all up, because pro golf was “lonely”.

She joined the police and became a Beat Constable in Aberdeen. A little over two years later, she left the Police and worked in a pro shop and in the period from 2009 to 2013, she did not touch golf clubs.

She worked at Trump’s course in Aberdeen. “I came out of the Police and started working in a pro shop and caddying and then decided that I needed to get back on tour. I started working at Donald Trump’s course in Aberdeen. I have met him, but only in passing.”

After quitting the police, she worked in a Pro shop. One day, watching golf on TV re-kindled her aspirations. “Working in the Police and watching difficult scenes put golf into perspective,” said Thomson.

Thomson came back as a full time pro in 2013. She played local events and some on LET Access. By 2015 she had a win in Spain and was eighth on the , LET Access Money List. A year later in 2016, she secured a full card for 2017, finishing fourth on the LET Access series.

Vani Kapoor said, “I found a lot of greens, but was faced with a lot of downhill putts. She added, “I am not putting any pressure on myself and going one shot at a time. I am ready to take where my destiny takes me. If I play well I get a good finish and my LET card, or else I will keep working on it.”

She continued, “I have not been hitting too well, but I have been putting better. As I said I am not looking at positions, I just want to do my best.”

Aditi Ashok had a mixed day with four birdies and two bogeys for a second straight 70 that took her to 4-under and dropped her from T-10 to Tied-13th place. Gaurika Bishnoi, despite finding 16 greens in regulation, carded 73 and is lying T-26, down from overnight T-10.

Defending champion Aditi started with a bogey on tenth, but recovered with birdies on 13th and 15th and on the front side of the course, she dropped a shot on fifth, but birdied fourth and eighth. Three of her four birdies came on Par-5s, which are the tall Indian’s strong point.

Bishnoi said, “I had nine on nine greens on the back nine, and birdied three times. The trouble was when I missed on the front nine, it was on the wrong side of the pins, which were tougher today and I bogeyed first and eighth.”

The only other Indian making the cut was amateur Pranavi Urs, who has been playing alongside the pros on the domestic Tour. The Bangalore golfer, Pranavi carded two-under 70 with five birdies, one bogey and one double. Four of her birdies came on the front nine and at 3-over 147, she was T-51.

Playing at the course considered among the most challenging on the Ladies European Tour, the women professionals from Europe and Asia, who have been taking it on since 2015, seemed to have had they say for the first time.

Rebecca Artis made amends for her first round 75 by going 10 better to 65. Also shooting a 7-under 65 was Belen Mozo of Spain, while Australian Sarah Kemp and French golfer Celine Boutier carded 66 each, all better than the record that had stood till a day earlier. Lydia Hall shot 67. A fair sprinkling of 68s and 69s and others below the par 72, indicated that the demons in the mind about the course were finally being put to rest.

In the morning, Smriti Mehra was among those who pulled out, while Amandeep Drall , Saaniya Sharma (73-79), Gursimar Badwal (74-79), Sharmila Nicollet, Neha Tripathi (82-76) and Tvesa Malik (83-75) and all prominent names on the domestic Tour, were among those who fell by the wayside, knocked out by the cutline.

The cut fell at 4-over 148 and 63 players, including amateur Pranavi, made the cut.

Noway’s Marianne Skarpnord takes lead at Hero Women’s Indian Open

GURGAON, Nov 10: Vani Kapoor showed the way for the Indians with a fine performance on the opening day of the 11th Hero Women’s Indian Open at the Gary Player course at the DLF Golf and Country Club.

The small-built, Vani who nevertheless packs a lot of power, is playing her seventh Women’s Indian Open, but fifth as a pro. She used her course knowledge well to come back from being two-over after five holes to finish with 69. She had six birdies against three bogeys and she was placed Tied-4th with five others.

Vani was two shots behind leader Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, who also had six birdies, but only one bogey, the result of a three-putt on fifth, in her first competitive round at the Gary Player layout.

Sharing the second place were Camille Chevalier and England’s Liz Young, who shot four-under 68 each. Chevalier had five birdies against one bogey, while Young had six birdies against two bogeys.

Vani was tied fourth with Meghan MacLaren, Klara Spilkova, Olivia Cowan, Karolin Lampert and Kanphanitnan Muangkhumsakul.

Just behind them, giving the Indian challenge a bigger boost were defending champion Aditi Ashok (70) and local DLF golfer, Gaurika Bishnoi, who is also the Order of Merit leader on the local Hero Women’s Pro Golf Tour.

Skarpnord’s 67 also equaled the course record for the Gary Player layout. Thailand’s Kongkraphan Patcharajutar had a 67 in the second round in 2015, the year when the HWIO was first played at this new course.

The tight leaderboard had as many 18 players shooting 70 or under and were within three shots of the lead.

The 23-year-old Vani Kapoor’s coach at the DLF, Anitya Chand has been around dividing his time between seeing his ward and running the tournament as one of the promoters.
Even though Vani has a LET card, she was hit by lack of tournaments in the first half of the season. She had seven starts this season and made cuts in five, but was not able to string three or four good rounds in any and has a best of T-36 at Lalla Meryem Cup.

“But the experience of travelling has been good,” she says. “I played at this course two weeks ago and won on the domestic Tour, but then went to Abu Dhabi after that. I came back and played nine holes on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Pro-Am on Thursday. I know this course well, so that was fine.”

“I’m pretty satisfied because I had a dodgy start and I was two-over after five holes. I was really tense but then I had a birdie on the sixth and then again on the seventh and the ninth. I found my momentum there.”

“On the back nine, I managed to keep it going and not think about anything else. I had some good putts, one of which was from almost off the green, about 30 feet and then some other long ones like the 18th, where it was 20 feet.”

Three-time winner on LET, the leader Skarpnord, 31, who joked that she could well win the World Championships for sleeping, is playing the course for the first time. “The last time I was here was 2009 or 2010 so I haven’t played here since they changed it. I’ve been hearing a lot from the girls and trying to paint a picture. I think a lot of the holes are really good but it’s just some of the greens are a bit crazy and you have to be so careful where you carry the ball because if it hits the slope it can end up 20 metres from the pin. If you are short sided here, you are in big trouble.

“I just tried to be patient and not worry too much about the bad shots and don’t let them bring me down, because there are 18 difficult holes and I didn’t have enough energy to waste on being angry.”

The morning leader, Liz Young said, “It’s very different to the other courses that we play on the LET. You have to think your way around on every shot. There is no let up and you can make birdies and bogeys very easily out there so it’s a good challenge.”
She added, “I enjoyed it out there today. I putted really well. I always use a local caddie when I come to India and once I again I did again this year. He was really good on the greens, telling me the pace and the direction, so we worked well together.”

Aditi, seen as one of the top favourites after her win in Abu Dhabi last week, said, “I putted okay today but I didn’t hit as many approach shots close to the flag as I should have.”

She added, “Hole 15 was good. I hit a 3-wood off the tee, then a hybrid and had a wedge to about 12 feet and holed the putt. I hit the last five greens in a row and they were pretty much my birdie chances but up until then I was grinding for par.”

The 19-year-old Economics student, Gaurika Bishnoi, who prefers to play and train in India, rather than going abroad on a golf scholarship said, “I play this course often, but not all the time because most courses are different from this. The WGAI has given an opportunity to play whenever we want, so its great and we know it well.”
Among other Indians, Saaniya Sharma (73) was T-41st and Gursimar Badwal (74) was T-54th

Three other well-known Indian players Amandeep Drall (77), Smriti Mehra (78) and Sharmila Nicollet (79) had a disappointing first day.

Pranavi Urs carded 77 to be the best of the four amateurs, who started off. Anika Varma and SIfat Sagoo shot 78 each. Diksha Dagar was the best amateur with a round of 80.

 



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