Vani fires four-under to take lead

Golf: Womens Pro tournament

Talented teenager Vani Kapoor set herself up for a perfect professional debut gift with a sizzling display in the penultimate round of the Hero-KGA Women’s Pro Golf tournament here on Thursday.

On a day when rest of the field struggled thanks to the demanding pin positions, the 18-year-old Delhiite hardly appeared troubled, carding a brilliant four-under 68 for a two-day total of 143 to open up a commanding four-shot lead at the Karnataka Golf Association.

Overnight leader Sharmila Nicollet, whose putting woes came back to haunt her again in a round of missed chances, slipped to second with a disappointing four-over 76 while last season’s Order of Merit winner Smriti Mehra bounced back into contention with the day’s second best card, a fine 71 that lifted her to third spot at 148.

After succumbing to a bout of nerves in the opening round on Wednesday when her first professional shot landed in the water, Vani was a picture of confidence on Thursday. With everything working according to her plans, Vani, who won a pro title last season as an amateur, made the best of her good form to race away from the pack.

Hitting the ball beautifully and matching it with some fine play on the greens, Vani holed out her first birdie of the day on the par-4 sixth with a brilliant 15-footer putt. She then made the turn at two-under following a neat 8-foot birdie on the ninth before dropping her first shot of the day on the 10th, two-putting from four feet.

She, however, was back to her best again, holing out birdies on the 13th, 15th and 16th holes, all set up by some wonderful hitting.

Things though didn’t go too well for home favourite Sharmila. While her hitting was decent for the better part of the day, her poor putting cost her dear. On a clutch of occasions, the Ladies European Tour card holder squandered regulation putts -- some for birdies and some for pars. She opened with a double bogey on the first hole and things just kept falling apart from thereon for the 21-year-old, who also found four more bogeys. The two birdies -- fifth and eighth -- reduced the damage somewhat.

Leading scores (after 36 holes, ‘A’ denotes amateur): 143: Vani Kapoor (75, 68); 147: Sharmila Nicollet (71, 76); 148: Smriti Mehra (77, 71); 150: Nalini Singh Siwach (74, 76); 151: Neha Tripathi (73, 78); 152: Saaniya Sharma (73, 79), Aditi Ashok (74, 78); 153: Shraddhanjali Singh (78, 75); 157: Nikki Ponappa (81, 76).

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