KARACHI: For a third straight edition, in yet another tantalisingly close finish, it was Shabbir Iqbal who prevailed.

Shabbir’s love affair with the Chief of Naval Staff Open Golf Championship continued when Pakistan’s top-ranked professional edged Ahmed Baig by one stroke in a tense final round to lift the title at the Karachi Golf Course on Saturday.

It’s now 14 titles in 27 editions of the CNS Open for Shabbir, who avenged his defeat to Ahmed in last week’s Pakistan Open by denying him a maiden title at the tournament.

A stroke separated Shabbir from overnight leader Mohammad Shehzad with Ahmed a further shot adrift in third heading into the final 18 holes.

And while Shehzad wilted, Shabbir and Ahmed battled for glory with the former seeing off the challenge with a birdie on the 17th hole for a final-round three-under 69 and a total of 12-under 274.

Ahmed also finished with a 69 and held on to second place by a stroke with Mohammad Ashfaq firing a six-under 66.

Mohammad Munir (68) and Matloob Ahmed (70), who led in the opening two rounds, shared fourth on 278 with Shehzad (75) a shot behind.

There was a narrower margin of victory in the two-round junior professionals event with Rashid Baig prevailing in a playoff against Abid Iqbal. Rashid (78) and Abid had ended tied at 153.

Mohammad Tariq, meanwhile, had a more comfortable victory in the senior professionals competition as he struck 73 in the second round to finish with 140 and still win by five shots over Mohammad Akhtar (71).

On a hot and sunny afternoon, all eyes though were on the professionals’ leader flight where Shabbir and Ahmed had a gruelling battle.

The duo had matched each other, birdie for birdie, on the front nine before Ahmed fired a birdie on the 10th to move level with Shabbir.

Shabbir hit back with a birdie of his own in the 14th to regain his advantage, only for Ahmed to reply with a birdie on the very next hole.

It set up a grandstand finish and when Shabbir birdied the penultimate hole, there was only going to be one winner.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2023

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