Prior to Sunday, 31-year-old Chandigarh golfer Ajeetesh Sandhu had played in seven tournaments as a professional at Chandigarh Golf Club, with his best finish being the eighth finish in the PGTI players Championship in 2012 as well as 2013.
On Sunday, as Sandhu emerged the winner with a fourth hole play-off win against Delhi golfer Rashid Khan in Jeev Milkha Singh Invitational presented by Take Solutions, he was lifted by some of the caddies before being greeted by his parents SMS Sandhu and Kiran Sandhu. It was Ajeetesh’s first win as a professional at his home course since 2008 and the senior Sandhu too remembered the first time he got Ajeetesh a golf set from the USA.
“Each win is special for us. But to see him win the title at his home course is a different feeling. I remember getting him a golf set for $30 from the USA, when he was three-years-old and he started training first at home and then at Chandigarh Golf Club. This win is a memorable win for all of us,” said a proud SMS Sandhu.
Sandhu, who had started playing at Chandigarh Golf Club in 1992, was the joint-leader with Khan at the start of the play on Sunday. After more than four hours of golf, Sandhu and Khan were at identical scores of 20-under-268, the lowest winning score in regulation at CGC, which meant that the two golfers headed for a play-off. It was for the fifth time that Sandhu was featuring in a play-off and the Chandigarh golfer seemed to pocket the title on the first play-off hole before Khan’s 30-feet par putt made sure that the players headed for the second play-off.
The second play-off hole saw Khan missing an eight-foot putt before both the players were tied on the third play-off hole. Sandhu won the title with a par on the fourth play-off hole with Khan finding water hazard on his approach shot. “I could not have asked for anything more. It was a tough round and play-offs also required a different mindset. I made some adjustment to my game. I thought I had won on the first play-off hole before Rashid came up with the brilliant shot. I have always found the 18th hole to be a tough hole and today the flag position was also tough. I played in four play-offs earlier and had won three out of four and knew that I can win this too. It’s an honour for me to win the tournament named on my mentor Jeev sir and at my home course in front of my parents,” said Sandhu, who pocketed Rs 24, 24 ,750 and claimed his fourth PGTI title.
While Khan had made a superb start to his round with five birdies on the first six holes, Sandhu made a slow start as he made a birdie and bogey on the six holes. Sandhu then made three birdies on the next three holes with Khan leading by two shots at the end of front-nine. The back nine saw Sandhu sinking three birdies, including a crucial birdie on the 14th hole, which made sure that the gap remained two shots with the last four holes to play. Sandhu made a birdie on the 17th, where Khan made a par before he made a bogey on the last hole, with Sandhu making a par resulting in a play-off. “I missed a couple of putts initially and Rashid made a good start. It’s always tough when the opponent makes a good start. I knew I had to fight for 18 holes. Three successive birdies on the front-nine helped me get my rhythm. I have been working on my putting with my coach Jesse Grewal sir and friend Gurbaaz Mann, that helped me. I still have the first golf set and I also remember training in the camp under Jesse sir in my earlier days. I remembered those moments today,” said Sandhu, who shot a round of six-under-66, identical to Khan’s round.
Last year’s runner-up Karandeep Kochhar, who was in the lead on the first two days, finished third with an overall score of 17-under-271.