When Udayan Mane beat a star-studded line-up of countrymen to win the Professional Golf Tour of India’s (PGTI) Tour Championship last December, he figured he’d made the breakthrough that would propel him to the next level. Golf, typically, had other ideas.
The 31-year-old from Pune admits he began to take good golf “for granted” after seeing off names such as Rashid Khan, Veer Ahlawet, Shubhankar Sharma, S.S.P Chawrasia and Gaganjeet Bhullar in Jamshedpur.
But the good times haven’t exactly rolled since his 12th PGTI triumph, at least not until he turned up for the Beautiful Thailand Swing in Phuket co-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour (ADT) and MENA Tour.
Mane capped an encouraging T-7 performance at the Laguna Phuket Cup on Tuesday with a closing 63 and produced more fireworks on Friday to earn the first-round lead at the $75,000 Blue Canyon.
The world No. 570 scorched around the Lakes layout at Blue Canyon Country Club in a mere 63 strokes, eight under, to edge Thailand’s Chanat Sakulpolphaisan and China’s Chen Guxin for the overnight led by a shot.
Mane’s eight-under score included six birdies and an eagle on the 11th when he drove it to just shy of the green on the par-4 and chipped in. Afterwards, the Indian rewound the clock to the PGTI Tour Championship with the beauty of hindsight.
“It was the biggest win of my career and it did give me confidence but I started to take things for granted and I paid the price,” Mane said.
“I just expected to show up and be in contention, not consciously but the attitude was such. I did struggle, anyone would. Got a wake-up call and started to work at it again.
“Anyway, this is me trying to get to the top again. On the AT, I have OOM winner status on the PGTI. So above country exemptions. On the ADT, same status. The goal this year is to play everything I get into and perform. Simple.”
Sakulpolphaisan, meanwhile, is making a lovely habit of hovering atop or very near the summit of ADT leaderboards.
The 31-year-old Thai made light of a blustery and sometimes wet Phuket morning to card a 64 and secure the clubhouse lead until Mane came in with a wet sail late in the evening.
Like Mane, Sakulpolphaisan’s seven-under circuit included six birdies and a hole-out eagle.
“I’m happy about my game right now,” said Sakulpolphaisan.
Why wouldn’t he be. The world No. 650 from Chonburi has been in sizzling form since the resumption of the ADT, finishing second to American Dodge Kemmer at the Gurugram Challenge in India in late March and barely missing a beat since.
He’s played the 11 possible rounds on this season’s secondary schedule in a combined 37 under par and boasts an eye-catching stroke average of 67.45. Only once has he signed a card of 70 or worse, frustratingly a final round two-over 72 which saw him drop 16 places to a share of T-50 at the Laguna Phuket Cup earlier this week. Before that, he shared ninth place at the Laguna Phuket Challenge and is comfortably positioned in third on the ADT Order of Merit; the top seven at seasons end earn automatic graduation to the main Asian Tour.
“I try to keep it simple with my game plan. One-shot at the time and stay in the present as much as I can,” said Sakulpolphaisan who missed the cut at three Asian Tour events before finishing T-32 at the International Series Thailand and T-23 at the DGC Open before his near-miss at the Gurugram Challenge.
“As of right now, I don’t have any more Asian Tour tournaments on my schedule so I will focus on playing ADT this year. Hopefully, if I’m play well enough I will have a chance for Asian tour next year.”
If he plays anything like he did on Friday, that outcome seems highly likely.
Sakulpolphaisan bolted out of the blocks on the Lakes course with three birdies in his first four holes and quickly made amends for a bogey on the 7th when he holed out from 50 yards on the 9th.
“I was in the fairway and had to hit over the bunker to the hole. That helped me move momentum for my round after my bogey on 7.”
He then added further birdies on the 10th, 15th and 18th to sign for his lowest round of the season thus far.
“I hit it pretty well today so give a lot opportunities for birdie. Overall, I’m happy and enjoy my round.”
Filip Lundell is the best of the MENA Tour continent heading into Saturday’s second round after a miraculous 66 that was achieved despite the Swede playing in a swathe of bandages after a motor scooter accident.
“I accidentally fell from my scooter two days ago. Got scratches that removed some skin on both my hands, elbows and one of my knees,” Lundell said.
“Today I played with bandages on both of my hands so it was a new experience from normal and painful at times. I’m very happy that I can play actually so I’m thankful for that. I saw a lot of eyes on me yesterday and today from different players as they might have wondered what I’ve been up to.
“Luckily, the golf course has a medical staff that came out to help to patch up my hands on my 13th hole as my started to bandages come off. I will get the right treatment I need to recover ASAP and just grind through the pain these coming rounds.”