India's Divyanshu Bajaj had a hole-in-one on the way to a blazing start of 7-under 65 that put him in second place on Tuesday after the first round of the 300,000-dollar KGA Challenge, the second of two European Challenge Tour events in the country.
The Indians enjoying home advantage had a good day as young Kartik Sharma and R Mari Muthu carded 6-under 66 each to be tied fifth while Aman Raj, eighth last week, and local lad Khalin Joshi shot 4-under 68.
Last week at the Black Bull Challenge, the first Challenge Tour event being played in India after 10 years, India's Om Prakash Chouhan emerged as the winner after a superb final two rounds.
Bajaj aced the Par-3 13th hole after starting from the tenth and was one shot behind the leader, German Michael Hirmer (64). Bajaj had an ace, six birdies and a bogey in his round of 65 and was tied second with Alex Fitzpatrick and Phillip Katich.
The two Challenge Tour events have meant new opportunities for Indian golfers. Chouhan, the winner last week, now has a card on the Challenge Tour. Also, with 300,000 dollars at stake, there is a lot to play in terms of the Order of Merit on the PGTI Tour, from which the winner gets a card to the Tour.
C. Muniyappa, Samarth Dwivedi and Varun Parikh of Gujarat carded 3-under 71 each to be tied 28th. M. Dharma played 2-under 70.
"It's been a long time since I shot such a low score. I was playing well and performing consistently on the PGTI till 2019 just prior to the onset of Covid. But thereafter I had some health issues due to which I struggled on the golf course. I've addressed the health problems with some changes in my lifestyle such as restrictions in my diet. These changes along with my self-belief have helped me get my game back on track," said Divyanshu, who is yet to win on the pro Tour.
"I was very stable from there on and kept the errors out of my game even though I missed a couple of birdie opportunities from 10 feet on the front nine," he added.
Leader Hirmer said, "I got off to a great start, my putter was really hot and I was in a nice flow this morning. I hit some good irons today and stayed patient. Last week I played well but didn't make my putts. It was nice to see some putts drop today."
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