Akshay Sharma wins his second title with the PGTI’s return

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Part of Weekly Digest – Issue II 

30-year-old, Akshay Sharma of Chandigarh registered a resounding five-shot victory after a sensational five-under 67 in the final round of the TATA Steel PGTI Players Championship 2020 Presented by Panchkula Golf Club outside Chandigarh. 

The caddie turned pro-golfer, Sharma captured his second title in style by taking his tournament tally to 24-under-264 (64-66-67-67) which equalled the record for the lowest winning total on the PGTI,  previously jointly held by Anirban Lahiri at the 2010 PGTI Players Championship at Aamby Valley Golf Course, Maharashtra and Rashid Khan at the 2019 Chittagong Open at Bhatiary Golf & Country Club, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

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This was a wire-to-wire win for Sharma who led the field from start to finish at the first tournament to be staged by PGTI in over eight months. Akshay, who won his first professional title at the QA InfoTech Open in Noida in 2018, took home the winner’s cheque of 4,84,950 and as a result, climbed from 29th to fourth place with earnings of ₹5,79,300  on the 2020 PGTI Order of Merit.

Akshay Sharma, who comes from a humble background has a compelling story too; as his father works as a private chauffeur. Sharma still remembers how he and his friend Shehzada Khan took a two-day caddie course at Chandigarh Golf Club and started working on the third day with a daily wage of ₹ 25-50 for 18 holes for members and later also coached members and kids for extra money. Because of his talent, Akshay was soon bestowed with playing rights at the club. Soon enough, Sharma turned professional in 2010 and it took him over eight years to arrive at his first title in 2018 at QA InfoTech Open in Noida and a couple more years for his second professional title. For Sharma, this has been a life-changing event and he looks forward to playing the Asian Tour Q-School soon.

21-year-old,  Karandeep Kocchar, who won his maiden professional title as an amateur at the age of 17at Tollygunge Golf Club in Kolkata in 2016, finished runner-up with 19-under-269 (68-65-69-67) and moved up to the seventh place from 23rd on the PGTI Order of Merit with earnings of ₹ 4,40,980 for the current season.

Other notable players in the field included Asian Tour winners, Khalin Joshi of Bangalore (74-68-71-71) who finished Tied-17th at 4-under par, another Chandigarh star, Ajeetesh Sandhu (70-69-74-74) and Delhi’s Rashid Khan(72-73-72-70), who both finished Tied-25th at 1-under par total.

While the tour played its first event in over eight months, the players were raring to go as 118 players made up the field from which 53 players made the cut to earn their first pay-cheques after a long time.

Before the lockdown stopped tournaments, the PGTI was able to conduct three events, viz., Golconda Masters at Vooty & Haldi, Telangana and PGTI Players Championship, Karnataka where Bangalore based Udayan Mane emerged winner at both while Aadil Bedi of Chandigarh took the  Bengal Open at Tollygunge Club, Kolkata. That happened to be the last event till play resumed last week.

With the resumption of events on the PGTI, the race for berths at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics also resumes as PGTI events now offer valuable Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points. The top two Indians in the rankings will be in the running for Tokyo on the revised cut-off date of June 21, 2021. Rashid Khan is currently the highest-ranked Indian in the world at 259 followed by Udayan Mane at 275 while Shubhankar Sharma is third at 341. As of now, five events are scheduled to be played in 2020 and the current season has been extended to 2021. PGTI will not stage the Qualifying School event for 2021. The criteria for eligibility of players to play events in 2020 will also be extended to 2021.

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