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Stewart’s prize winning stroke: No matchThe Indian Open Golf Championship has come a long way since it was first played in 1964 but the gulf between visiting professionals and their Indian counterparts remains as wide as ever.In terms of prize money and participation, the Indian Open championship has been on,Stewart’s prize winning stroke: No matchThe Indian Open Golf Championship has come a long way since it was first played in 1964 but the gulf between visiting professionals and their Indian counterparts remains as wide as ever.In terms of prize money and participation, the Indian Open championship has been on the upgrade. The prize money of $60,000 (Rs 4.80 lakh) this year drew a record 180 golfers from all over the world. The prize money at the first Indian Open played in Delhi was only $15,000 (Rs 2 lakh).And yet it was only in 1970 that the Indian Open became a part of the Asian golf circuit, the stepping stone for players aspiring to bigger and more lucrative circuits. Graham Marsh and ‘Jumbo’ Ozaki are among those who used the circuit as a stepping stone to bigger things.The championship, the biggest golfing event in India, is played alternatively in Calcutta and Delhi. This year it was Delhi’s turn to host the tournament. Indian professionals turned in a disappointing performance. Conspicuous by his absence was Major P.C. Sethi, the only Indian to have won the coveted Open.The overseas entries included American Kurt Cox, winner of the Open at Calcutta in 1980 and Indian-born American Gaylord Burrows, who won the championship when it was last played in Delhi in 1979.The champion receiving the Open’s trophyThe hottest pre-tournament betting favourite was Tom Sieckmann of the US who came to Delhi after tucking under his belt the Bangkok and the Philippines Open and a third place in the Hong Kong Open. Other fancied players were Chen Tze Ming, who had won the Hong Kong Open and Lu Hsi Chuen, rated as Asia’s top golfer, having won the circuit leader prize in 1979 and 1980.The championship started at the beautiful Delhi Golf Club course on Thursday, March 12, with the first threesome teeing-off at 6.45 a.m. Since there was a large entry, both the 1st and the 10th tees were used as starting points.advertisementVisitors Dominate: As the scores started coming in, it became increasingly clear that the course was going to be dominated by the visiting professionals. By late afternoon, when all the scores had come in, as many as 16 players had broken par. There were another 10 who had played the course on even terms. Circuit leader and favourite Tom Sieckmann set a hot pace by firing a three under par 69. By the time the last threesome came in, there were not only another four including compatriot D. Klenk and Taiwanese Hsu Sheng San who had drawn level with Sieckmann but one who had overtaken him by two strokes.Stroking the ball with authority and sinking his putts with confidence, Payne Stewart 24. of the US came in with a score of five under par 67, to lead the field on the first day. However, the Indian flag was kept flying by Ram Dayal and Ramesh Chand who had par rounds of 71. The best performance from the Indian viewpoint came from young National Amateur Champion Rajiv Mohta with a sub-par 71.On the second day, playing scintillating golf, Payne Stewart produced another round of five under par 67 to consolidate his position. His 10 under par 134 for two days put him four strokes ahead of his nearest rival, the more experienced Hsu Sheng San of Taiwan. Hsu had another round of 69 for a two round aggregate of 138.Rohtas failed to find form as Ram Dayal slid down with a 75. Simran Singh’s brilliant in patches round (he had five birdies) fetched him a one under par 71. Repeating his 73 of the first day, a steady Vikramjit moved into the top spot for Indian amateurs. At this stage, the cut-off was applied according to the rules of the championship and the big field of 180 was reduced to 71 professionals and 12 amateurs.Big Crowd: Despite threatening weather on the third day, a big crowd of a few thousands turned up to watch the international stalwarts in action: Understandably, the biggest crowd followed the threesome in which the leader, Stewart was playing. A super round was expected from this blond mustachioed handsome young man. It never came off. A somewhat nervous Stewart dropped stroke upon stroke before he could get hold of himself.While the Taiwanese pair of Ho Ming Chung and Hsu Sheng San were unable to find their touch, Stewart, who seemed in severe pain because of a pulled back muscle continued his battle, aided first by a painkiller spray and then by the kind of luck that always favours the brave. He holed difficult putts on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th to stay on top by the skin of his teeth. It was a resounding four stroke win for a brave Stewart, who at one stage seemed to be a doubtful starter for the final round. The winner got $10,000 (Rs 80,000) as prize money.advertisementRohtas. who was the championship’s biggest disappointment, had the consolation of winning the prize for the leading Indian professional with an aggregate of 298, 14 strokes behind the winning score. The Best Amateur prize was won by Vikramjit Singh, whose total of 298 for the four rounds was two strokes better than Ashok Malik. Perhaps the most pleasing feature of the championship has been the large crowds that watched the professionals in action clearly indicating that the Indian Open has arrived.