Osaka, Japan: Rahil Gangjee overcame severe self-doubts to end a 14-year victory drought with a memorable triumph at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship.
The 39-year-old Indian closed with a three-under-par 68 at Ibaraki Country Club for a one-shot victory over Koreans Kim Hyung-sung and Hwang Jung-gon.
Despite immense pressure, Gangjee struck a bunker shot to within 10 feet of the pin at 18 and holed the putt for what proved to be a decisive birdie.
Thanks to those heroics, Gangjee posted a four-day total of 14-under-par 270 at the ¥150 million (about US$1,370,000) event that is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).
It was the second Asian Tour win of Gangjee’s career, the first having arrived in China in 2004.
“It’s been 14 years,” said Gangjee. “I’ve been in such situations a few times now but have not been able to convert my chances until today. When you do not deliver after so many times, you start to doubt yourself. And when you finally deliver, it’s a very big thing.
“It’s been a hard 14 years, and the thing that surprises even myself is my will to keep going.
“Everyone will play their part in helping you out, the caddie, the mother, the father, the wife, friends. But more than anything else, you have to want it. And that has kept me going.
“My heart rate was up, especially when I got to the green and I knew I had to get up and down. That’s where my heart started racing and my mind started going all over the place. That was the chance I had to convert.
“My third shot out of the bunker was not really a tough shot. But under the pressure it could have been a very tough one. But, somehow, I was calm. My bunker play is one of the strongest aspects of my game.
“I have a lot of close friends who have been there for me and have always supported me. Having mates on Tour supporting you is a big thing. Golf is an individual sport and you need friends to help you through the bad times.”
Gangjee had missed the cut in his three previous events and was forced to retire in Singapore and Myanmar because of a stomach upset.
Zimbabwean Scott Vincent signed off with a 66 to finish in a share of fourth place with Thai Rattanon Wannasrichan and American Kim Sih-wan.
Although Shiv Kapur closed with a 75, it was enough to win him the Panasonic Swing series and earn the Indian the top bonus prize of US$70,000 and an exemption into an event on the European Tour this year.
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