Dhaka, Bangladesh: A never-say-die attitude paid handsome dividends for Mohd Liton Mondal and Sonya Akhter in the sixth edition of the Faldo Series Bangladesh Championship.
Well off the pace after a disastrous start to the tournament, Mondal recovered admirably to improbably claim top honours at the Kurmitola Golf Club in the seventh event of the 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season.
Meanwhile, Akhter had the distinction of topping the standings in the Girls’ Under-21 Division following a tense sudden-death play-off for the second year in succession.
In the overall standings, Mondal’s three-day aggregate of 223 was one shot ahead of Akhter and Jakia Sutana, who were both bidding to become the first female winner of the Faldo Series Bangladesh Championship.
Thanks to their successes, Mondal and Akhter will progress to the 14th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in March, 2020.
Making up the Bangladeshi delegation there will be Mohd Mehedi Hasan (Boys’ Under-18 winner) and Mohd Rifat (Boys’ Under-16 winner).
Five-over through four holes of the opening round, Mondal’s chances appeared to have evaporated. Despite regaining his composure and covering the final 14 holes in one-over to sign for a 78, he headed into day two languishing in joint eight place overall, no fewer than seven strokes off the lead.
A two-under-par 70 on day two brought him back into the reckoning, but it was Mohd Reyad Hossain who retained a slender advantage until back-to-back double-bogeys on 17 and 18 in the final round. Those late blemishes meant he finished off with an 80 and was overhauled by Mondal, whose closing 75 contained 15 pars and three bogeys.
Like Mondal, 20-year-old Akhter had to come from behind in dramatic fashion.
In 2018, she repelled the challenge of her cousin, Lima, at the first extra hole. In 2019, it was at the second extra hole that Akhter prevailed with a par that Sutana was unable to match.
It was a fitting culmination to a thrilling duel between the duo that saw fortunes fluctuate throughout. Akhter made the early running with an opening 74 only for Sutana to assume control on the back of a second round of three-under-par 69, the best return of the week.
When she extended her three-shot overnight lead to six with just nine holes remaining, the title appeared to be within Sutana’s grasp.
However, thanks to a birdie at 12 and an eagle-two at the short par-four 13th where she holed out with her wedge approach, Akhter reduced the deficit to three. With the finishing line in sight, Sutana stumbled to bogeys on 16, 17 and 18 for a 76 while Akhter parred her way home to card a 73 and take the contest to extra time.
Six-time Major champion Faldo said: “Congratulations to Liton and Sonya. They showed tremendous fighting qualities. They never gave up, even when it looked unlikely that they would end up winning. It just shows that you should always keep going – and keep believing.”
The 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as a series of qualifiers in Thailand, the FSA schedule includes two events in China and championships in Australia, Bangladesh, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.