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Steady Saaniya ends 25-month title drought at 11th leg of Hero WPG Tour

Hyderabad, September 8: Saaniya Sharma ended a 25-month long title drought as she was never really challenged on the final day of the 11th leg of the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour on Friday.

The 31-year-old Chandigarh golfer, who is now among senior pros on the Indian women’s Tour, overcame a nervous patch at the start of the back nine, before she steadied herself with a birdie amongst a series of pars in the last five holes. She carded two-over 73 for a total of five-over 218 at the challenging Hyderabad Golf Association course.

Saaniya, who is in her tenth year as a pro, was four shots clear of Amandeep Drall (75), whose second place helped her displace Gaurika Bishnoi from the top of the Hero Order of Merit. Gaurika skipped the event this week.

It was Saaniya’s first win since the Coimbatore leg in August, 2015 and also saw her rise to fourth place on the Hero Order of Merit.

Saaniya, starting the day two shots clear of nearest rival, Amandeep, was never really threatened. Saaniya bogeyed the third hole, but a birdie on par-5 eighth meant she turned in even par. By then Amandeep had bogeyed twice on third and fourth and fallen four shots back. Amandeep had one each of birdie, bogey and a double and five pars on the back nine for a card of 75 and a total of 222, which gave her the sole second place.

Smriti Mehra, also playing in the final group, started three behind the leader, but fell further behind as she bogeyed four times in first five holes. Another birdie on ninth meant she turned in five-over 40 and was almost out of the race for the title. She made a good effort with three birdies on back nine, but also had three bogeys to end up with a 76 and finished third at 224.

Gursimar Badwal, who came to Hyderabad looking for a hat-trick of wins, shot 74 with three birdies, four bogeys and a double. At 226 she was fourth, while Sonam Chugh (76) was fifth at 230 and Siddhi Kapoor (76) ended sixth at 232.

A shot behind her was Neha Tripiathi (76) at 233 and amateur Rhea P Sarvanan (78) was eighth. Trisha Sunil (80) was ninth at 234.

Afshan Fatima (80) experienced agony and ecstasy as she aced the par-3 seventh hole but had nine bogeys and a double bogey on her card, which had just one other birdie. She used a nine iron to see the ball disappear into the cup from 130 yards on the seventh.

Amandeep Drall is the new Hero Order of Merit leader, as the second place helped her inch ahead of the erstwhile leader, Gaurika Bishnoi. Amandeep’s second place cheque of Rs. 1,02,000 helped her to get to Rs. 8,77,750, while Gaurika is at Rs. 8,64,400. Gursimar Badwal is third with Rs. 6,85,200 and Saaniya Sharma with the winner’s cheque of Rs. 1,26,000 jumped up from sixth to fourth with Rs. 5,92,000. Neha Tripathi and Vani Kapoor occupy the fifth and sixth places.