Hie leads the field with Thais and Indians close behind at Classic Golf Country Club International Championship
Indonesia’s Rory Hie, still searching for his maiden Asian Tour win, was chased hard by three Thais and a couple of Indians, Aadil Bedi and Aman Raj, at the end of the first day of the $ 300,000 Classic Golf & Country Club International Championship 2019 on Thursday. Hie shot eight-under 64, including a five-under 31, on the back nine of the course, while three Thais, Sattaya Supupramai, who has been coming to India each year since 2008, Suradit Yongcharoenchai and Kwanchai Tannin were on six-under 66s at Tied-second place.
The two Indians, Aadil Bedi and Aman Raj, along with Swede Andras Gronkvist were lying Tied-fifth with scores of 67 each.
None of the top seven players have won on the Asian Tour. Tannin’s two professional wins have both come this year on the All Thailand Golf Tour, while Suradit has not won a pro event on a recognized Tour. Supupramai, whose younger brother is also in the field, has won three times, all of them on the Asian Development Tour. The last of those successes was in 2014.
Aman Raj, 24, who topped the Indian PGTI Q-School in 2016, won his maiden pro event on the Indian Tour in Jaipur last year. Gronkvist’s lone pro win came on China Tour last year, while Bedi is looking for his first pro win.
After Aman Raj and Bedi, the next highest placed Indian players were Rashid Khan, 44-year-old veteran Ranjit Singh, Abhijit Chandha and Himmat Rai. They all shot four-under 68s and were part of a 10-strong group in Tied eighth. Rashid and Himmat were the highest placed players with an Asian Tour win. Himmat won the Singapore Classic in 2011, while Rashid won the SAIL Open and the Chiangmai Classic in 2014.
A year after turning pro, Hie came to India for the 2009 SAIL Open at this very course. Hie, who is yet to win on Asian Tour, recalled that saying, “That was the year when Chapchai (Nirat) won and set the world record (of 32-under). The rough now makes it so much more difficult. If you don’t hit it on the fairway, you got to scramble and make par.”
Even more interesting was that he is with the same caddie. He added, “The funny thing was the caddie I worked with back then still recognized me and we are reuniting again this week.” That year in 2009 Hie was Tied-ninth, his only Top-10 on the Asian Tour in his first three years. He has come to India since then for other events without much success.
Hie turned pro in 2008 and went to the US to play golf at the University of South California. On Thursday, he started with a series of five pars before finding his first birdie on the sixth hole. But after that there was no stopping him. He birdied eight of the remaining 13 holes and had no bogeys. At one stage he had birdied five in a row from the eighth to the 12th holes and picked a shot on three of the four Par-5s.
Hie said, “This is probably like the most enjoyable round I have had all year. I felt like I was in the zone for most of the round and everything just worked to my favour. I sent a text to Lawrie Montague, who is the national golf coach for Indonesia asking him about my game. And he told me to just accept my mistakes and play with what I’ve right now. That’s exactly what I did today.“
In the morning Gareth Paddison of New Zealand was on fire as he raced through the back nine of the course in seven-under, before he had a triple bogey on the first, his 10th hole of the day. He ran out of birdies and also bogeyed the Par-5 ninth to finish three-under after being seven-under at one stage.
In the afternoon, Indian veteran Amandeep Johl turned the clock back with a five-under 31 on back nine, and then had five more pars to be five-under through 14 holes. He dropped four shots, a double on Par-5 sixth and then bogeys on eighth and ninth to finish at one-under.
Among other prominent players were Indonesia Open winner Miguel Carballo of Argentina, Indians Viraj Madappa, Kshitij Naveed Kaul, Priyanshu Singh and C Muniyappa, all on three-under 69s. Gaurav Ghei was even par, Khalin Joshi was one-over and Jyoti Randhawa was three-over.
The top 65 and ties will make the cut.
The Classic Golf & Country Club is considered one of the finest courses in India and South Asian region. The retreat is part of a sprawling 300-acre verdant estate, showcasing South Asia’s only 27-hole signature golf course designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
Adjacent to the signature golf course is the ITC Grand Bharat - an all Suites Retreat and the ultimate expression of Unhurried Luxury.
The Classic Golf & Country Club is also the first designer course in India, bearing the stamp of Nicklaus, who won 18 Majors, a record that stands even today. The estate also houses a unique ‘Golf Academy’ for aspirational young golfers.
It has an 18-hole Signature Championship Course and a 9-hole Signature Canyon Course built at the foothills of the picturesque Aravallis. The hillocks and knolls lend themselves ideally to create enticing fairways, cunning and tricky greens and in-play water, which are enough to challenge any golfer.
Yet, the course was made in a manner that it could cater to the entire spectrum of golfers. However, the more discerning golfers do find it a technical challenge at every shot.
Nicklaus, while talking of the course, had said, “Your game will be more of precision than power; it will reward you if you use your mind more than your muscles.”
PHOTO CAOTION: Aadil Bedi