Bhullar wins Challenge Tour’s debut in his homeland

Gaganjeet Bhullar of India won the 2011 Gujarat Kensville Challenge, held in his homeland.

It just seemed meant to be.

Gaganjeet Bhullar became the first Indian to win on the European Challenge Tour, claiming the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge.

Fitting, considering it was the tour’s first venture to India, as well.

The difficulty of the course and weather conditions made for a challenge at the Kensville Golf Club. Only six players finished under par.

Bhullar shot 75 Sunday but carded a four-round total of 5-under 283 to edge Matt Ford (70) of England by a shot.

After opening with a bogey, Bhullar recovered by birdieing the third hole. But his title bid looked perilous after bogeys on Nos. 4 and 10 – especially when Ford ran up successive birdies on Nos. 13 and 14.

However, Bhullar, 22, remained relatively composed, despite another bogey at the 17th hole, where his tee shot found a fairway divot. A par on the final hole sealed his victory.

Bhullar started the season where he began last year – with a victory. He won the Asian Tour International in February for his second Asian Tour victory.

“I cherish this moment, as this is my first international victory in India,” Bhullar said. “It was my father’s birthday on Jan. 14, so I dedicate this win to him. I hope that this season brings me more success, and I’m now looking forward to stepping up to the European Tour.”

Bhullar said Sunday that he will discuss with his parents whether he will stay close to home on the Asian Tour or play more events in Europe on the Challenge Tour, where “it would be a quicker way to step up to the European Tour.”

Ford was disappointed to miss out on his maiden Challenge Tour title.

“On the last hole, when I heard that Bhullar had made a bogey on the 17th, I tried to make a birdie to force a playoff,” Ford said.

But Ford hit his approach short, and failed to make the putt.

Jamie Moul (3 under) and Mathew Baldwin (2 under), both from England, finished third and fourth, respectively.

Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh and Mads Vibe-Hastrup of Denmark shared fifth place at 1 under.

The Challenge Tour takes a two-month break before the season resumes with the Abierto International Copa Antioquia in Colombia, held March 10-13.

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