Dermot McElroy fired a closing three-under-69 to take top honours among the Irish contingent at the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge at Karnataka Golf Association in Bangalore as Niall Kearney slipped from contention early.
McElroy, having made the cut on the number, began the day third in line from the Irish quartet that made the weekend, one stroke behind Conor Purcell and five shy of Niall Kearney. After a superb 66 in round three, Dubliner Kearney had made his way into the penultimate group, and had designs on overtaking 54-leader Lorenzo Scalise and taking overall glory on his Challenge Tour seasonal debut.
A bogey at the third and a double-bogey at the fourth saw him quickly ejected from contention, and two subsequent birdies were sandwiched by bogeys, after which he’d add one more on the back side for a disappointing four-over 76 to drop from sixth to 34th overall.
With almost the entire field to remain in situ for next week’s Challenge Tour event at the same venue, it’ll be McElroy who’ll be most satisfied with his week’s work. Four successive rounds in red figures, including back-to-back 69s saw the Ballymena man move up to T21st on the leaderboard, and his round today included six birdies and three bogeys.
Conor Purcell started the day one ahead of McElroy, but similar to Kearney, it was the front nine that did the damage, with a double-bogey-seven at the ninth particularly punitive as he’d eventually sign for a two-over 74 and a tie for 48th.
Having exceeded many expectations in making it safely through to the weekend, Robert Moran signed off with a level-par 72 to post a 61st place finish in his first Challenge Tour start outside of Ireland, and though he’ll obviously be disappointed with Saturday’s 75, the experience will stand to him and he’ll get a chance to improve on this performance as he’s in the field for next week’s event as well.
Victory went to local man Om Prakash Chouhan who secured a dream maiden European Challenge Tour victory on home soil.
The Indian posted a closing bogey-free seven under par round of 65 to reach 20 under par at Karnataka Golf Association and win by two, with Englishman Ashley Chesters and Spaniard Victor Pastor sharing second place on 18 under par.
The 36-year-old entered the fourth round two shots off the lead but after carding seven birdies he was delighted to climb to the top of the leaderboard in Bangalore.
“I’m thrilled,” he said. “It’s a huge achievement for me as I had never won an international title before.
“Today I just wanted to focus on my strengths and not drop any shots. I had thought that a score of five to six under par would be ideal today but those around me told me to target seven under. I would like to thank them for motivating me as I did manage to end up with a seven under par round.
“I followed up a good par on the 14th with a crucial birdie on the 15th that set the tone for my good finishing stretch. The birdie on the 15th was key as it helped me equal the lead. I knew something special was on the cards from there on.”
Chouhan is a seven-time TATA Steel PGTI winner but he will now look to continue his golfing journey in Europe following his dream breakthrough victory.
“I’ve worked a lot on the mental aspect of my game lately,” he said. “That has brought a lot of improvement in my game. In the past, if I dropped shots or made mistakes early in the round, I would generally start playing more aggressively. But now, I don’t let the errors affect my game too much.
“I definitely have plans to play on the Challenge Tour in Europe now. This win opens a lot of doors for me so I’m quite excited about the opportunities ahead.”
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