Salman Aslam

Candid Schmooze

POST- TOURNAMENT SYNOPSIS 37TH PUNJAB OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP 2018

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The grand finale of the PGF Golfing Calendar 2018 as far as Punjab was concerned was holding the prestigious 37th Punjab Open from 21-25 March 2018. The venue again was the opulent, ethereal and majestic Raya Golf Club DHA Lahore. The well nestled and ensconced golf course itself was a challenge for all. Undoubtedly this course is quintessential as far as maintenance and degree of difficulty is concerned. Albeit by all means it can boast of being a course par excellence. Its lightning fast greens measured by the strip meter were in range of 11.

After torrential deluge a day earlier weather was excellent for golf. Fairways were verdant, immaculate and pristine. Bunkers had the finest sand available for exquisite sand saves. Tees were flat, well mowed and manicured. Greens hold was superb with lot of backspin as flop shot by lob wedges resulted in lot of backspin. This bespeaks of the tremendous effort put in maintaining such a high quality golf course.

The setting of the event cloistered with a labyrinth of obstacles and merciless rough proved to be an acid test for golfers of all stature/abilities. For most it was the proverbial Waterloo. They vanquished into total disarray. 3-4 putts on greens were a common feature for even the most adept. Pin placements were treacherous coupled with massive undulations which were hard to cope. The event was spread over 5 days from 21-25 March 2018. Additional day allocated for subsidiary matches, senior amateurs and senior pros. By all reckoning course was well maintained as per international standards.

Day 1 dedicated to rounds by senior pros, Ladies and senior amateurs. Main feature was the Senior Amateurs segment dominated by Tariq Mahmood golfer of formidable class and stature. Displaying vintage golfing attributes he again took centre stage by eclipsing Imran Ahmed from Gymkhana by a solitary stroke. Javed Khan bagged 3rd slot in gross. The net honours winner was a complete surprise in form of Brig Zahid Maqbool Zippy who tamed his nearest rivals Abdul Haseeb and Kang Chong Jinn. He exploited his handicap of 14 and paced his game well.

In the senior pro segment champions of last century displayed repository of strokes and deftness in short game. Akhtar Ali of Lahore Gymkhana emerged as the winner with gross 71. Imdad and Akram with identical scores fell out of reckoning as winner was declared on best scores of last 3 holes.

In Ladies category of handicaps 24 and below it was dominated by Parkha Ijaz right from the outset with phenomenal rounds of 72 on both days. Humnah Amjad clinched 2nd gross followed by vintage golfer of yester years Ghazala Yasmin 3rd gross. In net section Suneyah Osama of Garrison was declared net winner followed by Ana James Gill and Shazadi Gulfam.

There is a dire need for another day for senior pros and amateurs. 36 holes would prove to be a real acid test for these vintage golfers.

This event was the culmination point for the pros. Those demonstrating mastery in surmounting the slopes, deceptive greens and Bermuda grass remained in the hunt. Rest perished ignominiously. Course is ensconced within the boundaries of residential houses at the periphery. From tee to the green lateral water hazards meander in a zig zag manner interspersed with undulations and slopes. Gradient and incline at places is pronounced. Types of slope are side hill, ball above and below feet. Out of bounds and lateral water hazards skirt the fairways posing ominous threat to tarnish score cards. Best course strategy and management entails hitting away from the hazards.

To cater for the slopes alterations in stance, ball position and type of shot favoured have to be kept in mind. Those who made optimum use of slopes and humps fared well. They trapped their ball in such manner that ball trickled close to the hole for a birdies galore. Fade and draw adjustments have to be made. Wind factor also comes into play. To add to the litmus test fairways are studded and straddled with deep bunkers. Further on the greens are jealously guarded by a maze of Redan and circumvallation type of bunkers. Ultra-fast greens with grading speed 12 further compounds the misery of the average golfer.

In the backdrop of this ominous scenario Punjab Open commenced. Those exhibiting dexterity and adroitness in combating these challenges stood out from the rest of the pack. To steal the honours players of vintage level required forte in all facets of the game. Top laurels belong to those with a complete repertoire of strokes in their armoury. This entailed hitting maximum fairways, hitting greens in regulation with deft irons, mastery in green speed reading and drilling putts. Apart from this scrambling pars and sand saves. The finishing 18th hole is indeed the toughest signature hole to crack with a most intricate pin placement on final day. Another feature of this picturesque course is elongated lateral water hazards skirting the fairways. To further add misery for the pack they narrow down precariously making approach shot making perilous and marring scorecards atrociously.

In backdrop of two resounding victories Number 1 golfer Shabbir Iqbal was the hot favourite and reigning champion. Yet again he proved his mettle by some stunning golf entirely stupefying the field. With a birdie blitz he carded a 66 on day 1. On day 2 his score was a modest 71.

He cemented his position as number 1 golfer of Pakistan. The year has been a resounding and pulsating one for Shabbir as he sought to extend his string of victories culminating at a triumphant note. Shabbir committed minimum cardinal errors. Lest a few fauxpas. Shabbirs course management was flawless as he finished the closing stretch unrattled. Nearest contender was Matloob of Garrison in second slot followed by Hamza Amin son of illustrious golfer Taimur Hassan. Both these golfers are playing steady golf and have the capability to upstage Shabbir.

The sponsors were motley of major bankers with Hondas up for grabs for an ace. In amateurs category dominance of Ghazanfar Mahmud was ominously threatened by Taimur of Peshawar followed by Khawaja Ahsan, Robin Bagh and Saqib. Event was planned and conducted with precision par excellence by scorer Nauman. Ahmed Zafar Hayat regained his former glorious form by carding a 74. He frittered his chances with a dismal 82 on day 2. Fakhar Imam of Raya demonstrated exquisite golfing as usual despite his involvement in organizing the tournament. Worst score of 118 gross was recorded by one of the professionals. Absence of Ahmed Baig Pakistan’s newest find and sensation was felt as degree of ferocity of competitiveness would have increased manifold.

Final Day: On final day amateurs segment honours went to Taimur Hassan of Peshawar with a convincing margin of 4 strokes over Robin Bagh who relegated Ghazanfar Hussain to 3rd slot by a solitary stroke. Net winner was Danish Javed net 220 followed by Khawaja Ahsan net 221. Weather was ideal for golf and low scoring. The field was star studded. Competitive levels fierce. There was no paucity of time. Consequently event was orchestrated with clock like precision and synchronization. The main attraction was the professionals vying for the top slot and hefty prize money. Shabbir Iqbal fresh from his spectacular victory by a resounding margin at Gymkhana continues to ride the high crest of glory being a hot favourite to retain his crown. Matloob was a threat to reckon with by continually bearing down his neck to wrest number 1 slot. Their rivalry continues.

The grand finale the pros match commenced in a melodramatic fashion. Shabbir set the pace with a pulverizing and electrifying round of 66 and setting the field ablaze. Day 2 was a day of vacillating fortunes. Shabbir did not match his earlier tantalizing score and settled for a 71. Matloob and Hamza Amin led charge of the light brigade by posting steady scores and came within a stroke adrift of Shabbir. A promising golfer from Raya Muhammad Alam and Munir also remained in the hunt. Other performances were lacklustre.

Crowning glory on the 3rd proved decisive. Matloob of Garrison avenged his earlier defeats with an electrifying performance carding gross 68 on final day. Hamza Amin again wilted and buckled under pressure carding a dismal 79. Nevertheless the most electrifying and spell binding performance came from Matloob who dethroned last year’s winner Shabbir Iqbal. Alam from Raya clinched 3rd position
In the end it was Matloob who grabbed the honours to be crowned Punjab Open Champ 2018. Matloob proved beyond any iota of doubt his vast supremacy over the rest of the field. He showed complete mastery in all facets of the game. He replicated all strokes under pressure. Matloob exhibited vast repository of shots in his armoury. Nailed his tee shots, hit maximum greens in regulation plus scrambling and sand saves for par were indeed phenomenal. Putting was also ultra-precise and workmanlike. The champ remained composed and cool during extreme pressure. This sterling attribute separates him from the entire field. Richly deserves to win his 2nd tournament of the golfing circuit.

The prize distribution was grand affair graced by President PGF Lt Gen Mian Hilal Hussain himself an avid golfing enthusiast.

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posted by Salman Aslam @ 8:59 AM,

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