Sharmila reigns supreme

Bangalore lass edges out gritty Vani in play-off

Sharmila reigns supreme

Sharmila Nicollet reserved her best for the last, celebrating her homecoming in triumphant fashion at the season-opening Hero-KGA Women’s Pro Golf tournament here on Friday.

Appearing completely out of confidence, especially on the greens, following her below-par sojourn on the Ladies European Tour and a disastrous second-round on Thursday, the 21-year-old buried all of those ghosts in style to edge past a gritty Vani Kapoor via play-off at the Karnataka Golf Association.

After signing off regulation play at one-over 217 following a fine two-under 70 that put her level with overnight leader Vani (74), Sharmila unleashed a mighty second shot on the first extra hole -- par-4 18th -- that landed the ball just one foot from the pin.

Knowing that she had almost sealed the title with that stunning stroke, Sharmila then coolly tapped it in for a birdie after Vani could only par to wrap a superb come-from-behind victory and regain something she had lost completely in the last eight months -- self-belief.

“Today was a complete test of my abilities,” said a delighted Sharmila after pocketing the winner’s cheque of Rs 2,62,500.

“Coming into this tournament, my form had taken a huge beating and I was so lost in confidence. The victory feels more special considering I did this all on my own with no help from my caddie.”

Spoon-fed on club selection and lines on the greens by caddies at most tournaments in India, Sharmila has been often found wanting in her short game department, especially on the European Tour where she has to fend for herself.

After seeing her travails on Thursday, coach Tarun Sardesai decided to caddie for her in the final round, offering no more help than just carrying the bag and cleaning the clubs.

Out on her own at her home for the first time, Sharmila, although jittery at times while holding the putter, settled in beautifully as the round progressed, slowly playing catch-up with the solid Vani with two birdies -- 1st and 7th -- before sneaking past in commanding style.  

Dwarfed in terms of height and experience compared to Sharmila, Vani still dished a solid show on her pro debut.

With her lead cut to just two shots following a pair of birdies and bogeys at the halfway stage, the 18-year-old took the fight to Sharmila before her game fell apart on the 14th and 15th where she bogeyed.

The double disaster put her on par with Sharmila, and although she held firm for the remaining three holes, a special shot from the Bangalorean pushed her off the perch. Meanwhile, local teenager Aditi Ashok signed off as the best amateur, totalling 225 after a carding a 73 in the final round.

Leading scores (after 54 holes, ‘A’ denotes amateur): 217: Sharmila Nicollet (71, 76, 70) wins via play-off, Vani Kapoor (75, 68, 74); 222: Nalini Singh Siwach (74, 76, 72); 224: Smriti Mehra (77, 71, 76); 225: Aditi Ashok (A) (74, 78, 73); 229: Neha Tripathi (73, 78, 78); 231: Shraddhanjali Singh (78, 75, 78); 235: Saaniya Sharma (73, 79, 83); 240: Nikki Ponappa (81, 76, 83); 242: Suchitra Ramesh (A) (86, 78, 78).

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