Indian golf welcomed a new star in 20-year-old Viraj Madappa, who showed maturity and calmness beyond his years to win the TAKE Solutions Masters in front of scores of adoring teen fans at the KGA. In the process, Madappa, who is three months short of his 21st birthday on November 9, became the youngest Indian to win on the Asian Tour. The earlier record was held by Gaganjeet Bhullar, who won the Indonesia Invitational, when he was 21 years and three months, while Shubhankar Sharma won Joburg Open when he was 21 years and five months old.The win was a massive boost for Indian golf as it comes a week after Gaganjeet Bhullar’s triumph at the Fiji International, co-sanctioned by Asian and European Tours. Also, last week in Bengaluru, Rahil Gangjee won the Louis Philippe Cup on the Asian Development Tour. Madappa, a Coorgi by birth, lived and grew up in Kolkata. But last year he shifted to Bengaluru to be with coach Tarun Sardesai. So, it was a homecoming of sorts for Madappa. He carded four-under 67 to get to 16-under, while four players, Zimbabwean Scott Vincent (68), Argentine Miguel Carballo (71) and the Thai duo Suradit Yongcharenchai (66) and Danthai Boonma (70) shared the second place.SSP Chawrasia (70) briefly captured the lead, finishing Tied-6th alongside Honey Baisoya (70) and local hope, Khalin Joshi (72). Joshi had a troublesome front nine, with two bogeys and a double. Madappa turned professional at the start of 2017 and this is his first win as a pro. He said he had started to get a positive feeling from the 15th itself even though he was still one shot behind.He revealed, “Last night I thought about a win, the winning putt and so much else, so I was kind of nervous,” he said. “Then, to get my first pro win on the Asian Tour is a dream come true. It is yet to sink in.”He added, “It’s incredible really. My family has been very supportive. My mum is here with me today. It was great to see all the kids from the academy out here today. They were all like between 6 to 15 years old. They were probably the loudest in the crowd. You could tell it was them in the crowd.”“I want to thank all the kids, my parents and my coach, Tarun Sardesai, with whom I have been working for some time now. It was so good to see all the youngsters from the Academy (Tarun Sardesai Academy) here and cheering for me.”On his play and the energy he could feel, he said, “I was riding off their energy. Winning the tournament did cross my mind when I birdied the 16th hole but I was just trying to stay in the present and hit every shot I could the right way. I think I did a good job there. I didn’t back off from the situation, even though I had the opportunity to lay up on 18th hole. I decided to go for the green and I’m proud that I made that decision.”As for what he does next, he said, “I am going back home to Kolkata to celebrate with my family tonight and spend some time at home. I wasn’t looking at the leaderboard on the 18th. I only looked at it before I chipped. I was aggressive with that chip. I knew I had a two-shot lead then but I felt relieved after chipping it back to the green.”Madappa now has a full exemption on Asian Tour till end of 2019. “I will now work on my schedule soon,” he added.
Chawrasia said, “Too many of my birdie putts lipped out and I could never get the momentum going.” Chawrasia, who had five birdies against four bogeys, was unfortunate as his birdie putts on 14th, 15th and 16th lipped out and frustrated by that he dropped a shot on 17th and then made a mistake on 18th for another bogey.
Joshi admitted, “Nothing worked for me today. I was 4-over after 10 and I tried hard, but it was not to be.”
Madappa started the final day two shots behind the leader Miguel Carballo of Argentina, at 12-under and in Tied-4th place. Through the week, Madappa has scored heavily on the back nine and Sunday was no different. After trading one bogey with one birdie on the front nine, Madappa holed four birdies on the rock solid back nine to complete a superb win.Vincent continued his fine run this season as he tied for second. But at one stage after an eagle two on Par-4 10th and another birdie on 11th, Vincent moved to 16-under and opened a two shot lead over the field. It seemed he was ready to grab his breakthrough win on the Tour. Madappa birdied the 15th to get to 15-under. As he added another birdie on 16th, Vincent playing in the same second last group, bogeyed the same hole for a two-shot swing. From one behind, the Indian was now one ahead at the top. Vincent dropped another bogey on 17th. So Madappa had a two-shot lead when he arrived at the 18th tee and he played safely for a par on the Par-5 closing hole. Vincent needing an eagle on the 18th managed only a par. This week Madappa’s scoring on the back nine was his strength. He was 15-under for the back nine and was just 1-under for the front half of the course.
Chikkarangappa, like Joshi, dropped four shots early and was then trying to play catch up with three birdies on back nine. He finished ninth. Defending champion, Thailand’s Poom Saksansin (66) was Tied-10th alongside with five others, one of whom was India’s Om Prakash Chouhan (70).