Change is the buzz­word...

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Live - - FRONT PAGE -­terji@hin­dus­tan­

Kaushik Chat­terji CHANDI­GARH: Change can mean a lot of dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, none of them nec­es­sar­ily be­ing the coins in one's pock­ets. And, if those changes re­fer to ad­di­tions to one's ar­moury as well as one's fam­ily, they are prob­a­bly for the best. Just ask Chandi­garh-based pro­fes­sional golfer Haren­dra Gupta. Of the two Play­ers Cham­pi­onships or­gan­ised by Pro­fes­sional Golf Tour of In­dia (PGTI) last month in Pune, Haren­dra was only able to at­tend one.

Of course, dur­ing the first of those two tour­na­ments, held at the Poona Golf Club, his cho­sen sport must have been the last thing on his mind - his wife, af­ter all, had just de­liv­ered their daugh­ter. Less than a week later, the new fa­ther, armed with a new club in his bag, fin­ished fourth at the Ox­ford Golf Club.

While merely smil­ing at the sug­ges­tion of the lat­est mem­ber of his fam­ily hav­ing brought him good luck, Haren­dra, one of two half­way lead­ers of the PGTI Play­ers Cham­pi­onship at the Chandi­garh Golf Club on Wed­nes­day, be­lieves that his new club has worked quite well for him so far. "The shots that were dif­fi­cult to pull off with ac­cu­racy while us­ing the pitch­ing wedge are eas­ier to con­trol us­ing the gap wedge," said Haren­dra, who shot a three-un­der-par 69 to go with his open­ing 68 for a two­day to­tal of seven-un­der 137.

Play­ing on his home course, Haren­dra, who has pre­vi­ously won the PGTI Play­ers Cham­pi­onship at the same venue back in May 2008, hit the ball close to the pin on the front nine, start­ing off with back-to-back birdies. "I was a lit­tle off on the back nine; even though I reached the greens in reg­u­la­tion, I landed away from the pins," said Haren­dra, who went on to make two more birdies against a lone bo­gey on the tricky penul­ti­mate hole to fin­ish the day in a share of the lead, along­side Kolkata's Shankar Das, who him­self has a cer­tain change - a new ex­pe­ri­ence, ac­tu­ally - to draw from. GO­ING PLACES

About a year-and-a-half ago, Das was just an­other cad­dy­turned-pro try­ing hard to make it on In­dia's do­mes­tic golf tour. Then, in Novem­ber 2010, at a PGTI event in far­away Dig­boi (As­sam), he broke through. A sec­ond win in Pune last year fol­lowed by a suc­cess­ful ti­tle de­fence in As­sam proved that the first triumph was no flash in the pan.

This year, the Kolkatan has made rapid strides. He missed the cut at the Euro­pean Tour co-sanc­tioned Avan­tha Mas­ters, but in the two Asian Tour events that fol­lowed, he fin­ished sixth and fifth, re­spec­tively. In the mean­time, his home club, Royal Cal­cutta Golf Club, de­cided to pro­vide him fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for his po­ten­tial for­eign trips to the tune of Rs 4 lakhs per year. That for­eign trip ma­te­ri­alised soon enough - last month, as the PGTI trav­eled to Pune, Das flew down to In­done­sia, to take part in his maiden in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment, the Asian Tour event In­done­sian Mas­ters. What's more, he made the cut, too.

In his first tour­na­ment af­ter hav­ing gained vi­tal in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure, Das opened with an im­pres­sive three-un­der 69 in the first round and fol­lowed it up with an im­proved card of 68 in the sec­ond to grab a share of the lead. "Play­ing abroad teaches you a lot. The places where you hit an iron in In­dia, you have to make use of a wood," said Das, whose typ­i­cally ac­cu­rate iron play re­sulted in as many as five birdies from within five feet on Day Two here. And even though poor ap­proach shots caused him to drop a cou­ple of bo­geys, Das fin­ished with a 20-foot putt for birdie on the final hole.

City-based Haren­dra Gupta and Kolkata’s Shankar Das (right) in ac­tion dur­ing the sec­ond round of the PGTI Play­ers Cham­pi­onship be­ing held at the Chandi­garh Golf Club.

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