Rayong (Thailand) January 14: Twenty-year-old Viraj Madappa, one of India’s most promising talents, finished tied 29th at the 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School’s Final Stage to earn his maiden Asian Tour card in only his second season as a professional.
Madappa (73-67-69-72-71), who became the 2017 PGTI Emerging Player of the Year after amassing the highest earnings among the rookies in the season, posted an even-par-71 in the fifth and final round of the Final Stage at the Rayong Green Valley Country Club in Thailand on Sunday to total three-under-352 for the week. He thus finished inside the top-35 and ties for the week to claim his Asian Tour card.
Viraj, who as a rookie had six top-10s on the PGTI last year including a runner-up finish, made three birdies and three bogeys in the last round that saw him slip five spots from his overnight tied 24th. Nonetheless, Madappa’s final round performance was good enough for him to not only secure his card but also end up as the highest-placed Indian at the event.
The Kolkata-based Viraj had been one of India’s leading amateurs prior to turning professional in 2017.
Himmat Rai (71-71-71-66-74) was the other Indian to earn full playing rights on the Asian Tour as he closed the week in tied 34th place at two-under-353. Himmat, a former winner on the Asian Tour, dropped 16 places from his overnight tied 18th as a result of his final round of three-over-74 but still managed to make the grade by one shot. Rai now returns to the Asian Tour after a one year gap.
The event was won by Korea’s Seungtaek Lee who totaled 14-under-341.
The 2018 Asian Tour Qualifying School Final stage saw 243 hopefuls from over 30 countries vying for their playing rights at the start of the week. The first cut was made after 36 holes and a total of 153 players made it into the third and fourth round.
A further cut was made after 72 holes and 78 players progressed into the fifth and final round where a total of 44 players from 12 countries securing their Tour cards for the 2018 season after making the cut-off mark set at two-under-353.
The Indians who did not finish among the top-35 players and ties and thus missed their card, were Angad Cheema (tied 51st at even-par-355), Veer Ahlawat and Deepinder Singh Kullar (both tied 69th at four-over-359) and M Dharma (tied 73rd at five-over-360).