KARACHI: Ahmed Baig kisses the trophy following the prize-distribution ceremony for the Sindh Open Golf Championship at the Arabian Sea Country Club on Sunday.
KARACHI: Ahmed Baig kisses the trophy following the prize-distribution ceremony for the Sindh Open Golf Championship at the Arabian Sea Country Club on Sunday.

KARACHI: Having done the hard work over the last two rounds, Ahmed Baig thought he could relax just a bit here on Sunday.

Starting the final round atop the leaderboard of the Sindh Open Golf Championship with a four shot lead, it didn’t take long for the youngster, chasing his first professional title in his fourth tournament, to get back into the groove.

Closest challenger and defending champion Matloob Ahmed had whittled down his lead down to two shots by the third hole. It prompted Ahmed to ‘give himself a kick’.

He hit his first birdie of the final round on the fourth hole. From there on it was a canter, Ahmed hitting four more birdies in a bogey-free 67 for a three-day aggregate of 16-under 200 and a five stroke victory in the end.

“I’m so glad at getting my hands on the crown,” the 20-year-old told Dawn after lifting what is expected to be the first of many titles. “I’m very happy with my performance. I played a very good, a very safe round. I knew I had to beat the course and everything will be fine. Matloob and Shabbir [Iqbal] had to chase the game and I just had to make sure I wasn’t going to give them a chance.”

Matloob seemed pretty determined he wasn’t going to make it easy for Ahmed. He hit birdies on the first and third holes but Ahmed hit back on the fourth to make it a three-shot deficit for the holder.

Matloob hit back with a birdie on the seventh but Ahmed replied immediately with a birdie on the eighth, setting up a fascinating contest over the last nine holes.

But the battle ended on the 10th hole when Matloob had a 50-yard bogey. The defending champion did hit a birdie on the 12th but then Ahmed birdied the 14th, 16th and 18th holes to round off a brilliant three-day performance.

Matloob did show some resistance when he hit a birdie on the 15th hole but he knew his challenge had ended when he bogeyed the 17th but did finish with another birdie on the 18th in his 68 which earned him second place on 11-under 205, three strokes ahead of Shabbir (69).

It wasn’t the best of days for Shabbir, the record five-time winner of the Sindh Open. Starting six shots behind Ahmed, he knew he was faced with an uphill task if he were to win a sixth title at the Arabian Sea Country Club.

A bogey on the third made it even more difficult and even though he rebounded with a birdie on the fourth, he bogeyed the fifth. Showing incredible powers of recovery, Pakistan’s number one golfer hit back-to-back birdies on the next two holes but then bogeyed the eighth. It was that sort of a day for him.

Three successive birdies followed after that, drawing gasps from the crowd that they could potentially witness another one of Shabbir’s trademark comebacks. But a bogey on the 14th meant it wasn’t to be one of those days. He eventually finished with a birdie on the 17th.

Shahid Javed Khan (70) and Mohammad Tariq (66) finished on seven-under 209 with Waheed Baloch showing continuing his remarkable consistency by shooting a third straight 70.

Amjad Yousuf (71) and Khalid Khan (70) ended on 212, a stroke ahead of Mohammad Zubair (73) and Talib Hussain (70).

Ghazanfar Mehmood took the amateur title with a net score of 210 over three rounds, ahead of Mohammad Sharif (210) and Zohaib Asif (220).

Mohammad Akram clinched the senior professionals crown and Abdul Wadood was the winner in the junior professionals’ category while Aania Farooq lifted the ladies’ title.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019