Nepal | February 21, 2020

Rai wins Eastern Open

Bags first title in 12 years as records tumble

MAHESH ACHARYA

Dharan, January 23

Local pro Bal Bhadra Rai carded third straight under-par round to claim the title of the Surya Nepal Eastern Open here at the Nirvana Country Club Health and Golf Resort here today.

Rai carded three-under 67 to post the 54-hole total of nine-under 201 on his way to beating Shivaram Shrestha by four strokes victory.

Rai, who became the first pro to return with under-par cards in all three days, also broke the previous winning total of seven-under set by Shrestha.

Along with the first major title in 12 years and overall second, Rai received Rs 125,000.

Former top pro Shrestha produced the best card of the day scoring six-under 64 to move up to second position, while local pro Sukra Bahadur Rai — who had levelled the scores after first three holes — slipped to third at one-over 211 after he played a forgettable round of four-over 74 in the final round.

Bal Bhadra Rai, known as Mani Rai in golfing fraternity, began the day with three stroke cushion over fellow Dharan pro Sukra. They were level at six-under after Sukra carded a birdie on the second and sank an eagle on the next, while Shrestha, playing in the second last group, was pushing from behind.

Sukra failed to keep the momentum going and Shrestha reduced the deficit to four strokes after the completion of first nine holes. Shrestha came within two strokes off the pace after 12 holes before Rai produced a couple of wonder putts to finish it in style. Rai saved par from the bunker in the 15th hole and converted birdie putts on the next three holes to completed the thrilling victory.

“I am more than happy today as I was able to lift the trophy after 12 years,” said the 47-year-old Rai, who had won the Surya Nepal Western Open in Pokhara in 2008-09 season. “The victory has proved that the hard works never go waste,” added Rai, who bounced back to four-under 30 on the back nine after taking the turn at one-over 37. After facing a bogey on the fourth hole, Rai carded birdies on the 11th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. “I had put in a lot of hard efforts to prepare for this tournament and I am happy to win the title with a record total,” said Rai, who became the second Dharan pro to win the Eastern Open after Sabin Sapkota did so in 2010-11 season.

Runner-up Shrestha, who held the previous best winning total of seven-under 203 set in 2017, took the turn at two-under 34 and carded four-under 30 on the back nine. On his way to playing the bogey-free round, Shrestha carded birdies on the sixth, seventh, 10th, 11th, 12th and 18th holes. “The lip out on 13th hole was the turning point. I lost the feel after missing that birdie and the two-stroke penalty in the first round also played its part in my campaign,” said Shrestha, who was slapped with two-shot penalty after his cell phone rang on the sixth hole. “Actually I lost three shots because of that incident as I went to face a bogey on the next hole,” added Shrestha, who has bagged 45 career title so far.

Army pro Dhana Bahadur Thapa came fourth at 214 after he carded evenpar 70 despite missing as many as five putts and he received Rs 45,000. Shiva Kumar Majhi (72) and Surya Prasad Sharma (68) shared the fifth position at 216 and they earned Rs 35,500 each.

Dinesh Prajapati came seventh at 217, while Jayaram Shrestha, Rabi Khadka, Sanjay Lama and Deepak Magar finished in top 10.

Nepal No 1 pro Bhuwan Nagarkoti finished 13th at 12- over 222.

Niraj Tamang won the amateur section title with the score of four-under 206.

Tamang, who was the firstday leader after carding six-under 64 and was one stroke behind Bal Bhadra Rai going into the final round, shot one-over 71 to register a 17-stroke victory over Sukra Raj Rai. Sundar Rai came third at 225.

In all, 50 golfers — 34 pros and 16 amateurs — took part in the second event under the Surya Nepal Golf Tour 2019-20. Member of Provincial Assembly Meena Subba, Mayor of Dharam Sub- Metropolitan City Tilak Rai, Marketing Manager of Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd Bal Krishna Gurung and Nepali Congress Chairman of Sunsari Area No 1 Suresh Man Shrestha gave away prizes to the winners. The tournament will end with the Pro- Am event on Friday.


A version of this article appears in print on January 24, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


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