Michele Thomson takes lead at Hero Women’s Indian Open, Vani Kapoor soars into contention
Gurugram, November 11: It’s been 10 years since Michele Thomson was last in India to play in a golf tournament and the past decade has proven to be quite a journey.
The former Curtis Cup star was in Bangalore for the LET’s first foray to the country in 2007, when she played in the EMAAR MGF Ladies Masters as an amateur.
After turning professional at 19, she quit golf at 21, thinking the pro game was not for her, however a stint working as a police officer, in a Pro shop and as a caddie, during which time she met Donald Trump, made her truly appreciate the game.
After a four-year break from golf, Thomson gradually made her way back through LET Access Series, at first, missing all four cuts in 2013, then making two cuts from seven starts in 2014, before clinching her first win in Spain in 2015, when she ended eighth on the order of merit and finally earning her full LET card after finishing fourth on the LET Access Series order of merit in 2016.
Today, she shot a flawless course record eight-under-par 64, containing eight birdies, on the Black Knight Course at DLF Golf and Country Club in the second round of the Hero Women’s Indian Open, to open a three-stroke lead at 10-under heading into the final day of the tournament.
With the prospect of her first LET title in sight, the 29-year-old from Aberdeenshire said: “My performance overall was really good. I had eight birdies, no bogeys and my irons were solid today, so that was the main reason for scoring low and then I had 26 putts, I stuck to my strategy and went through my routine. I played solid yesterday just didn’t hole as many putts and my round was as good today.”
A victory would be a huge reward for Michele, as well as her entire support team, including her dad Graham, caddie Jo Morley and coach Neil Marr.
She explained: “I was watching the Ladies European Tour on TV and sat down with my dad and said, ‘I want to give it another shot.’ He said, ‘I’ve got your back if you want to do that. You’ve got to work hard and it’s not going to be easy,’ but look where I am now.
“The LET Access Series was a big stepping stone to get back on the tour. I spent about three years on that tour trying to get my card for the LET and managed to do it last year.
“It’s not easy to be a professional golfer but if you surround yourself with the right people, then you can have fun while you’re out here. Coming to places like India is amazing. When I came back, it was still the same faces and friends I had from when I first turned professional so it was really any different, I was coming back to the same friends.”
Thomson is one of several first-timers at DLF Golf and Country Club who are prospering, along with Frenchwomen Camille Chevalier and Céline Boutier, who are tied for second on seven-under. However Australian Sarah Kemp, also on that score, tied for 10th at DLF two years ago and home hope Vani Kapoor is playing on her home course.
Vani said: “I found a lot of greens, but was faced with a lot of downhill putts. I am not putting any pressure on myself and going one shot at a time. I am ready to go where my destiny takes me. If I play well I get a good finish and my LET card, or else I will keep working on it. I have not been hitting too well, but I have been putting better. As I said I am not looking at positions, I just want to do my best.”
First year professionals Emily Kristine Pedersen and Aditi Ashok won the title in 2015 and 2016 respectively and Vani, Camille and Céline all have the chance to become the third rookie winner consecutively. However, Kemp is also looking for her first victory and the world number 20 Carlota Ciganda who has six career titles, is only a stroke further behind in solo sixth, four strokes from the lead.
Another Spaniard, Belen Mozo, had a 65 to move into joint seventh, the same score as Rebecca Artis, who moved into a tie for 13th place with the defending champion.
Aditi Ashok had a mixed day with four birdies and two bogeys for a second straight 70 that took her to 4-under and dropped from T-10 to Tied-13th place.
In the morning, Justine Dreher aced the 150-yard par-3 16th to win an Omega watch and she ended the day in joint 43rd position.
The cut fell at 4-over 148 and 63 players, including four Indian competitors, will contest the final round.