Shrestha survives scare in dramatic finale

Kathmandu, June 8

Shiva Ram Shrestha registered a three-stroke victory over Surya Prasad Sharma and Sanjay Lama after a dramatic final round of the Surya Nepal Premier Golf Championship here at the Gokarna Golf Club today.

The Nepal No 1 pro began the day with a cushion of five strokes over Sharma but fell three shots behind after 10 holes. The RNGC pro Shrestha completed the victory after Sharma faced triple bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes.

Shrestha — who opened the campaign with a six-under 66 before moving to the top of the leaderbaord with rounds of 65 and 67 on the next two days for 54-hole score of 18-under 198 — posted a 14-under 274 total after he faltered to four-over 76. With the record-equalling sixth title of the season and 36th career trophy, the 33-year-old Shrestha received Rs 220,000. Shrestha had set the record of most wins in a single season by claiming six titles in the Surya Nepal Golf Tour 2011-12 season.

Out of the eight tournaments of the 2016-17 season, Shrestha won the Surya Nepal Eastern Open, Surya Nepal Challenge, Western Open, Central Open, Tour Championship and Surya Nepal Premier Golf Championship, while Rabi Khadka bagged Surya Nepal NPGA Match Play and Rame Magar claimed the Surya Nepal Kathmandu Open.

Sharma put himself in contention with a two-under 34 on the front nine after Shrestha faltered to a 41 that included two double bogeys and a bogey. He then extended the lead to three strokes with a birdie on the 10th hole. Shrestha pulled one back on the 12th with a birdie and the match scenario changed on the 15th where Sharma faced a triple bogey. After facing a penalty for hitting tee on the 12th fairway, Sharma hit a duff shot and took six shots to reach the green where he two-putted from 15 yards. Shrestha also faced a bogey after he hit the tree with his approach shot but that was enough for him to level the scores at 14-under.

Both the players saved pars on the next hole before Sharma suffered another triple bogey on the par-4 17th after he over-shot the green from the hazard. Playing under drizzles, Shrestha had an easy par to go three shots ahead, while Lama levelled the scores with Sharma at 11-under. All three pros in the final group saved pars on the final hole to end the dramatic round. Sharma, who finished the round at two-over 74, and Lama (71) shared the second position at 11-under 277 and earned Rs 112,000 each.

Shrestha said the round was the worst one of his career at the Gokarna Golf Club. “I had never even though of playing like that,” said Shrestha. “It began from the first hole as I hit into the jungle with the first shot of the day. The swing was total off today and I also struggled with approach shots and putting,” he added. “I won not because I played good round of golf. I got the trophy as others also did not fare well,” added Shrestha, whose best winning score is 18-under at the same course when he captured the Surya Nepal Master in 2012. “I had the chance to break that record and had planned to finish the round at three to four-under. But the plan was dashed due to poor swing,” he added.

Shrestha said the 14th and 15th holes changed the complexion of the match. “I was two strokes behind after 13 holes and the match was slipping away from me. I was lucky that the ball bounced back to the fairway after hitting an object on the 14th hole instead of going out of bounds. I told my caddy that the incident happened because I had to win the title,” said Shrestha. “And the 15th hole turned the whole scenario after Surya dropped three shots and I could level the scores,” he added.

Army Club pro Dhana Bahadur Thapa, who shared the first-round lead with Lama at seven-under 65, faltered to five-over 77 to finish fourth at two-under 286 and received Rs 74,000, while home club pro Bhuwan Nagarkoti (73) came fifth at one-under 287 and got Rs 65,000.

Jayaram Shrestha came sixth at two-over 290 and pocketed Rs 60,000, while Rajendra Thapa Magar finished seventh at 292 and earned Rs 55,000. Tirtha Poudel and Rabi Khadka shared eighth position at 293, while Rame Magar and Bal Bhadra Rai were tied on 10th position at 294.

In amateur section, reigning Nepal No 1 Sukra Bahadur Rai of Dharan played a round of five-over 77 to win the trophy with the score of 293. Tanka Bahadur Karki, who also shot a 77, finished second at 299, while Vijay Shrestha Einhaus (75) came third at 300.

In all, 48 players — 36 pros and 12 amateurs — took part in the Rs 1.2 million tournament. Managing Director of Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd Abhimanyu Poddar and President of Nepal Golf Association Tashi Ghale handed over the prizes to the winners. The season will come to its end with a Pro-Am event on Friday.