Bengaluru, Mar 22 (IANS): The first of the two European Challenge Tour events, the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge, gets underway on Thursday at the KGA with a majority of the Indian stars in action.
The European Challenge Tour returns to India after a ten-year absence.
Indians will get to compete in back-to-back European Challenge Tour events with a lot at stake.
The leading Indian players in the field include former PGTI Order of Merit champions Udayan Mane, also an Olympian, Khalin Joshi, current PGTI Order of Merit leader Sachin Baisoya, Yuvraj Singh Sandhu and Aman Raj, and the talented rookie Aryan Roopa Anand, who is playing in his hometown.
With the DP World Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India announcing a new partnership, this week's co-sanctioned event between the Challenge Tour and the PGTI is aimed at creating a pathway for the top players in India to reach the highest levels of the men's professional game.
Earlier this year, Manu Gandas, earned his card into the DP World Tour, by topping the PGTI Order of Merit. In addition, the next three players will get a chance to make it to the DP World Tour via the final stage of the Qualifying School.
With 20 top players from the Challenge also getting into the DP World Tour, the two Challenge Tour events assume a lot of importance for Indian golf.
The Challenge Tour is where the next generation of golfing stars find their feet and players including Irishman John Murphy, Frenchman Ugo Coussaud and Italian Matteo Manassero, the youngest winner in DP World Tour history, will tee it up in India this week.
Aryan is looking to thrive on local support in this week's Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge. The 21-year-old, who was crowned India's Number One amateur in 2022, leads a strong home contingent.
"My expectations are high coming into the week but I am just going to focus on the little things and prepare the best I can," he said.
"I turned professional earlier this year after becoming the Number One amateur in the country. This did a lot for my confidence, and I couldn't have asked for a better start to my career on the TATA Steel PGTI.
"Golf in India is growing in popularity in recent years and Karnataka Golf Association is such a busy golf course throughout the year, he said. "I grew up playing at this golf course and everyone here has seen my journey through to the professional ranks. The support is going to be huge and I'm really looking forward to it.
"It's great to have Indian players performing all over the world and now we have role models such as Shubhankar Sharma on the DP World Tour and Arjun Atwal, who became the first Indian winner on the PGA Tour."
The Indian joins a star-studded field in Bangalore this week including seven-time DP World Tour winner Alvaro Quiros and Matteo Manassero, the youngest winner in DP World Tour history.
Khalin Joshi, an international winner and former PGTI Order of Merit champion, playing at his home course, said, "My recent form has not been good but I'm happy to be back home and playing an event at KGA after over four years. I've made the most of the opportunity by spending a few days with my coach working on some aspects of my swing.
"The course is playing great thanks to all the work put in by the team here at KGA. It's been very encouraging to have Sir Nick Faldo here to launch the event. The Challenge Tour events in India present a terrific opportunity for all of us Indian golfers to prove our mettle in a highly competitive field."
Mane said, "Even though I'm based in Pune now, I grew up playing at KGA as I learnt and started my golf here with my father and brother. So I have a lot of memories from KGA and it does feel like coming back home. There's a huge comfort level playing at KGA as I've won a pro event here in the past and also hold the record for the lowest winning total at this course. My caddie is also from here.
Aman Raj, a winner on the PGTI earlier this month, said, "I'm in a good zone at the moment, having ended a long victory drought recently. I've reaped the rewards for hanging in there and being patient.