Indian golfers Chikka, Himmat earn Asian Tour cards
Hua Hin (Thailand), January 24 (IANS) Indian golfers S. Chikka and Himmat Rai were among 47 players to earn an Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School final stage presented by Sports Authority of Thailand here Saturday. Chikka made up for the disappointment of missing out on his Tour card by one shot last year by putting up a remarkable display in what was only his second attempt at the Qualifying School. He finished fourth with a total of nine-under 276.
"This means a lot to me. I really worked hard for this. It took me a year to come back again and finally get my Tour card. It was a tough week," said the 21-year-old. "Missing out last year was really emotional for me but it has made me a stronger person. My attitude in my game got better and I am really happy I made it."
Himmat Rai finished joint 12th after scoring a total of five-under 280. Overnight leader Daniel Chopra alongside Lee Chieh-po of Chinese Taipei, Thai duo Phiphatphong Naewsuk and Danthai Boonma also earned their cards for the impending season.
Chopra, a two-time winner on the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour and one-time winner on the Asian Tour, outclassed the elite field by signing for a three-under par 68 to win by four shots on 15-under par 270 total at the par-71 Springfield Royal Golf Club.
Finland's Kalle Samooja, a former member of the Asian Tour, returned with the day's lowest round of 65 to take second place while Thailand's Phiphatphong Naewsuk settled one shot back in third on 275 at the Qualifying School.
2011 Asian Development Tour (ADT) Order of Merit winner Jonathan Moore of the United States, Korea's Kim Gi-whan, Canadian Lindsay Renolds and Rai were also among those who finished inside top-40 and ties to secure their Asian Tour card for 2015.
Chopra, who fired six birdies against three bogeys, shrugged off the final round pressure and credited his experience for a remarkable performance this week.
"It feels really wonderful to be back on Tour. The course was really demanding off the tee. I was reminded of how focused I was when I tried to get my PGA Tour card a few years ago. That experience helped. I kept my rhythm nice and smooth and that gave me good confidence," said the 41-year-old Swede.
"I am feeling more relieved now. It has been tough for me for the past few years. It's good that I belonged somewhere again. I've learned and crafted my game in Asia and it's a place I would always call home. I can't wait to start playing out here. Winning the Qualifying School makes me feel that I can win on Tour again," added Chopra.
All Qualifying School entrants will be eligible to compete on the burgeoning ADT, which was inaugurated in 2010 as a gateway to the premier Asian Tour. The secondary circuit staged a record 21 tournaments in the 2014 season.