Monday, 27 January 2014 00:00
Prabagaran who led from the start of the UTE-CAT Sri Lanka Open with a comfortable lead of 5 strokes after day 1 faltered at the start of the back nine on the final day with an uncharacteristic bogey on the short par four 10th and followed it up with a double bogey on 11 to trail the rookie pro Thangaraja by 2 strokes and be on joint 8 under with the current King of this pinnacle of Sri Lanka Golf Championships, Anura Rohana.
Thangaraja pulled further ahead with a classy and confident birdie on the 12th hole while Praba kept his cool and recovered beautifully from a poor drive that left him dangerously close to the water hazard and partially blocked by trees to scramble a par. The most difficult par 3 thirteenth had Praba looking out of contention when he was bunkered with his tee-shot and missed his par once again while Thangaraja pulled further ahead and King Anura was looking to make his move in the final stretch.
The par five 14th proved to change the complexion of the tussle once again with both Thangaraja and King Anura faltering in different ways. Anura trying to pull off a miracle 2nd shot over the trees to reach the par 5 in two was caught by the branches and left with no option but to chip out and make bogey while Thangaraja full of adrenaline overshot the green with a simple pitch and failed to recover to card a rare bogey.
The 15th Hole produced dazzling golf by all three contenders with King Anura showing his class capturing an Eagle to make up for his earlier lapse while Praba and Thangaraja made birdies. Rooky Thangaraja feeling the pressure slipped again at 16 missing a vital 3 foot put to keep both Anura and Praba interested just 2 strokes behind at 9 under with two holes to go. With nothing more to lose Anura and Praba unleashed screaming drives down the long par four 17th while Thangaraja feeling the heat played very safe with a shorter but straight drive down the middle. His caution did not pay off when he pulled his approach left of the green which did not put him in a position to recover and he made yet another bogey. Both Anura and Praba set themselves up for birdies to draw level with Thangaraja but Anura just missed and Praba coolly sank his putt.
Excitement and uncertainty
The excitement and the uncertainty had the spectators running to reach vantage spots while Praba’s drive at 18 left him just short of the green and ready for the final kill. King Anura not yet ready to give up also left himself just short of the green but had a bunker to contend with for his pitch while Thangaraja still taking the cautious approach was well short and almost under the trees. While Thangaraja and Praba finished tied at 10 under, Anura made a valiant effort to keep himself in contention but he too just missed birdie and finally lost his crown as King of Golf in Sri Lanka.
Golf skill at higher levels is totally dependent on mind skills and experience invariably plays its part. Both Praba and Thangaraja feeling the extra pressure of a sudden-death playoff could not make par at the extra hole and Thangaraja’s lack of experience once again let him down as his double bogey forced him to let go of the Sri Lanka Open Golf Champion title which was in his grasp until the end. Praba on the other hand having held the Runner-up spot in the last two years finally got his taste of Victory and the winner’s purse of two hundred thousand rupees.
The enthralling final day’s play was followed by a simple prize giving ceremony graced by UTE (the title sponsors) CEO Riyad Ismail, SLGU President Lal Dias and the host club RCGC Captain Nimal Piyarathne. All past winners were also invited.
The RCGC course was in excellent shape and the tournament committee can take credit for the great ground conditions. The 2013 Championship was co-sponsored by CML-MTD Construction Ltd and the purse of Rs. 1 million was appropriately distributed among the top 41 players who made the cut off and completed the 4 rounds.
Young Sachin adds UTE Cat Challenge Trophy
17 year old Sachin de Silva played exceptional golf to add the UTE Cat Challenge Trophy to his ever-expanding cupboard of awards carding a par 71 in the 2nd round and overtaking his younger rival 13 year old Zaffar Sikkander. These two together with the other youngsters Prashan Peiris and Ishira Fernando will be names to be remembered in time to come in the Sri Lankan golfing scene. One hopes that they will continue to be motivated and bring honours to Sri Lanka in the Asian and International scene.
Niloo dominates Pam Fernando Trophy
In the Ladies category experienced campaigner Niloo Jayathilake once again won the Pam Fernando Challenge Trophy with the best aggregate gross score of 164 leaving the other ladies trailing far behind over the two rounds. Jane Hong got her nose in front of the rest of the pack and made the Runner-up Spot on a count back with an aggregate score of 177. Irene Scarth however prevented Niloo from capturing a clean sweep by bringing in a net aggregate of 142 over Niloo’s 148 for the Honours in the Net category.
Seven time winner and Defending Champion Anura Rohana finished in 3rd place just 1 stroke behind the top two and will have to wait another year at least to establish his personal record of 8 wins to be the player with the highest number of wins in the Sri Lanka Open Golf Championship as he is tied on 7 wins with the veteran Nandasena Perea who was unable to participate this year due to personal reasons.