India’s Om Prakash Chouhan produced a nerveless seven-under 65 on the final day to earn his first international title as he finished two shots ahead of the rest of the field much to the delight of the home crowd at the US$300,000 Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge 2023 at the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA) golf course in Bengaluru on Sunday.
The 36-year-old Om Prakash Chouhan (70-67-66-65), who hails from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, fired the last day’s best score to total 20-under 268 for the week while joint runners-up Ashley Chesters (67-68-68-67) of England and Victor Pastor (72-64-67-67) of Spain had a tally of 18-under 270 at the event co-sanctioned by the European Challenge Tour and PGTI.
Aman Raj (67-68-71-70) took tied eighth place at 12-under 276 to finish as the second Indian in the top-10.
Om Prakash Chouhan’s eighth professional win helped him secure his Challenge Tour card and claim his biggest ever prize money cheque of US$48,000 (INR 39,84,000) that in turn catapulted him from 16th to first position in the TATA Steel PGTI Rankings with season’s earnings of INR 44,52,750.
Among the other notable records set on Sunday, Chouhan became the third Indian to win on the Challenge Tour following the likes of Gaganjeet Bhullar (won in 2011) and Shiv Kapur (won two titles in 2013). It was also the first win by an Indian on Indian soil since Khalin Joshi’s triumph at the Panasonic Open India in October 2018. Om Prakash also equaled Udayan Mane’s 2017 record for the lowest winning total at KGA.
Chouhan, a winner of seven PGTI titles in the past, saved his best round for the last day as he went error-free with three birdies on the front-nine and four more on the back-nine. On the front-nine, ‘OP’ as he is known, hit his wedges close on a couple of occasions to pick up birdies and also made a great par save on the fifth after finding the water hazard.
After a birdie on the 12th and salvaging a good par on the 14th, OP sank a crucial 10-feet birdie conversion on the 15th to draw level with Ashley Chesters who was the leader for most part of the day. OP then extracted a birdie from a tough position on the 17th as he drained another long putt. An unruffled Chouhan, who turned pro in 2002, finally saw it home in style with a 10-feet birdie conversion on the 18th.
Chouhan said, “I’m thrilled. It’s a huge achievement for me as I had never won an international title previously. I definitely have plans to play on the Challenge Tour in Europe now. This win opens a lot of doors for me so I’m quite excited about the opportunities ahead.
“I just wanted to focus on my strengths and my game and not drop any shots. I had targeted a seven-under at the start of the round.
“I’ve worked a lot on the mental aspect of my game lately. That has brought a lot of improvement in my game. In the past, if I dropped shots or made mistakes early in the round, I would generally start playing more aggressively. But now, I don’t let the errors affect my game too much.
“I followed up a good par on the 14th with a crucial birdie on the 15th that set the tone for my good finishing stretch. The birdie on the 15th was key as it helped me equal the lead. I knew something special was on the cards from there on.
“I would like to thank Mr. Devang Shah for allowing me to play regularly at the Kalhaar Blues & Greens golf course in Ahmedabad. Playing at Kalhaar has made a huge difference to my game. I would also like to thank Mr. Ragesh Vasa and Mr. Badresh for all their support, encouragement and valuable advice.”
Ashley Chesters (67) had a bogey-free day while Victor Pastor (67) made six birdies and a bogey as the duo couldn’t catch up with Chouhan in the final stages.
M Dharma (70), playing at his home course, finished tied 21st with a total of nine-under 279.