Top pro Shrestha defends Eastern Open crown

Dharan: Top pro Shivaram Shrestha defended the title of the Surya Nepal Eastern Open here at the Nirvana Country Club Health and Golf Resort here today.

Shrestha carded a two-under 68 in the final round to post the total of seven-under 203 and registered one-stroke victory over amateur players Sukra Bahadur Rai and Tanka Bahadur Karki. Rai carded one-under 69, while overnight leader Karki played one-over 71.

With the 39th career title, Shrestha pocketed a cheque of Rs 115,000. Rai won the amateur section trophy on count back and Karki finished second. Rai emerged victorious as he had scored four-under in the last 36 holes, while Karki had two-under.

The match went to the final-hole battle with Shrestha and Karki — who went into the final round with two-stroke cushion — tied on seven-under and Rai two strokes behind. Shrestha and Karki drove to the left of fairway, while Rai hit it straight towards the green. Shrestha attacked the flag with the approach shot but found the bunker, whereas Karki fell short and Rai had the chance of an eagle. Karki had an opportunity to at least force the match into playoff with a par putt from around eight yards but he failed and Shrestha calmly saved the par from six yards to claim the trophy after Rai settled for a birdie.

Shrestha, who began the day two shots off the pace, carded two-under 34 on the front nine to take a three-shot lead over Rai, who played one-over 37. Karki faltered to three-over 39 on the front nine. The front nine performance made all the difference as both the amateurs carded two-under 32 on the back nine, while Shrestha played even-par 34.

Shrestha began the day saving pars on the first three holes before dropping a shot in the fourth. He then bounced back with three consecutive birdies from the fifth and saved pars on the last two holes before taking the turn. On the back nine, Shrestha carded birdies on the 10th and 13th and dropped shots on the 15th and 17th holes.

Rai dropped a shot on the first and ninth holes against a birdie on the sixth on the front nine. He then added three birdies on the 15th, 17th and 18th and faced a bogey on the 16th hole. Karki faltered in the final round. He faced bogeys on the first, third and ninth holes on the front nine, while Karki carded three birdies on the 11th, 13th and 15th against a bogey on the final hole.

As the amateur players were not allowed to take the cash prize, Sanjay Lama and Jayaram Shrestha shared the second position at one-under 209 and they received Rs 63,500 each. Lama played two-over 72 on the final day, while Shrestha carded two-under 68. Shiva Kumar Majhi (72) made a memorable debut in professional circuit finishing fourth at one-over 211 and earned Rs 42,000.

Another local pro Sabin Sapkota — teaching pro in Germany — carded one-under 69 to share the fifth position with Bhuwan Nagarkoti (73) at two-over 212. They received Rs 34,500 apiece. Likewise, Dhana Bahadur Thapa came seventh at 213 and got Rs 29,000 and veteran pro Deepak Magar was eighth at 214 after he played three-over 73. Three pros — Surya Prasad Sharma, Deoraj Pakhrin and Suman Rai — shared the ninth position at five-over 215.

A total of 61 players, 30 pros and 31 amateurs, took part in the 54-hole tournament organised by Nepal PGA under the sponsorship of Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd. Cut was applied after second round with 21 pros and six amateurs making it to the final.

Brand Manager at Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd Keshav Pradhan, Chairman of Nirvana Country Club Shashi Ram Bhandary, NGA Vice-president Tilak Rai and Nepal Police DIG Gyan Bikram Shah handed over the prizes to the winners. The tournament will end with Pro-Am event on Saturday. A total of 60 players, 15 pros and 45 amateurs, will participate in the event.