Prasad hot on D’Souza’s heels at Faldo Series Asia Grand Final
Shenzhen, China (March 2): Arjun Prasad conjured a sensational turnaround to soar into contention on the opening day of the 10th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final.
Four-over-par through eight holes, the 17-year-old Indian’s prospects of challenging for glory over the Faldo Course at Mission Hills Dongguan appeared to have evaporated almost before they had begun.
But sticking to his guns, Prasad covered the final 10 holes in seven-under to sign for a three-under 69 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking event.
“I played well,” said Prasad, who has sole possession of second place, one shot off the pace being set by Hong Kong’s Leon D’Souza.
There is then a two-stroke gap back to New Zealand’s Tom Parker and Thai Atiruj Winaicharoenchai in joint third while England’s Harry Goddard shares fifth spot on even-par 72 with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, the leading girl.
Making his first appearance in the 54-hole Grand Final, Prasad said he was inspired to be in the presence of six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, the tournament host.
“Mr Faldo was at the Welcome Dinner last night and I was awe-struck to see him. I hope to have a chance to meet him later,” said Prasad, who is also aiming to follow in the footsteps of Rashid Khan and Abhijit Chadha and become the third Indian winner of the event.
“I’ll just be concentrating on my normal game,” added Prasad, who booked his place at Mission Hills by winning the Faldo Series India Championship in a sudden-death play-off.
Setting out from the 10th tee, Prasad began steadily with five successive pars before encountering trouble with a bogey at 15, a double-bogey five at the short 16th, where he pulled his pitching wedge tee shot into the water, and another bogey at 17.
A birdie at the par-five 18th, where he two-putted after finding the green with a three-iron approach, stopped the rot and enabled him to reach the turn in 39.
The fireworks continued at the first hole – his 10th of the day – where he holed a 15-foot left-to-right breaking putt for an eagle three.
Now in the groove, Prasad picked up further shots at the second, third and fourth, meaning he was six-under for five holes. A final birdie of the day came at the seventh to take him clear at the top of the leaderboard.
Four flights behind him, D’Souza, who also started from 10, began his round sedately, one birdie offset by one bogey for an even-par 36 on his outward nine.
He then made his move with a birdie at the third, followed by an eagle-three at the fourth. A bogey at seven left him one shot behind Prasad but he drew level with a birdie at the short eighth and then powered ahead with another birdie at nine, his final hole of the day.
As well as receiving the Faldo Series Asia trophy, the overall winner will be granted an exemption into an Asian Tour event. The Girls’ winner will be given a start in a Ladies European Tour event.
Both will also earn themselves a trip to compete in this year’s Faldo Series Europe Grand Final.
Meanwhile, China-based players are vying for the Mission Hills Trophy, awarded to the leading golfer from the People’s Republic.
Supported by The R&A and Mission Hills and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the 2015-16 Faldo Series Asia campaign stretched over 11 months and was made up of 21 events in 17 countries including, for the first time, Australia.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past winners include multiple Major champions Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy.
Leading first-round scores:
68 – Leon D’Souza (HKG)
69 – Arjun Prasad (IND)
71 – Tom Parker (NZL), Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA)
72 – Harry Goddard (ENG)
Nasa Hataoka (JPN)
73 – Dario Antonisse (NED), Ma Shouneng (CHN), Sam Nashaar (AUS)
74 – Jordan Garner (AUS), Inez Beatrice Wanamarta (INA), Minami Hiruta (JPN), Ryo Katsumata (JPN), Ku Lung-hei (HKG).
For full scoring please click here.