Gagan shoots 68 to grab lead

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Bangalore, June 11 (UNI) Gagan Verma shot seven birdies yet returned a card of four-under par 68. But that was enough for the lanky lad to grab a two-shot lead at the end of the half-way stage of the LG Southern India Amateur being played at the par-72 Eagleton Golf Resort near here today.

Gagan who had opened with an even par round of 72 now has a two-day total of 4-under 140.

Chandigarh based amateur H S Kang submitted a similar card of 68 to be placed second along with overnight leader Vikram Rana at 142.

Rana shot a level par 72. Making a huge leap was Bangalore lad Chikkarangappa who shot a nicely compiled 69 to move into the fourth position. Second ranked Manav Das also signed a card of 69 to be tied for the fifth position along with Abhinav Lohan at 144. Saurav Bahuguna was placed seventh at 146.

Gagan who is looking for a maiden victory on the LG Indian Amateur Golf Tour began from the 10th and tasted immediate success on the par-4 11th when he made a birdie. But it was nullified when he went over on the very next hole even as he lost one more stroke on the par-4 15th. However the amateur from Delhi Golf Club resurrected his round with birdies on the 16th and 18th to take the turn at 1-under.

Keeping the same tempo, Gagan opened with a birdie on his back nine. Playing some flawless golf, Gagan saved strokes consecutively in the third and fourth and the sixth before committing a mistake on the seventh for a bogey. "I am happy about my round although I could have done much better without those bogeys," said Gagan. "The scores are too close to predict the winner. It could be any body's game," he added.

Kang who has been playing really well this season began in a great fashion firing five birdies on his front nine. "It was wonderful out there as I was enjoying the game and my putts just dropped in," said Kang who saved strokes on the 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th and 9th. However on the back nine Kang began with a bogey on the 10th and played brilliantly intermittently and flirted with birdies before finally making one on the 16th. However he had to end on a sad note making a bogey on the finishing hole. "It is a hard feeling but that is what golf is all about," said Kang.

Chikkarangappa who was the youngest Indian to represent the country in the Nomura Cup last year, made birdies on the 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th while making bogeys on the 2nd and the 7th.

Top scores after 36 holes: 140 Gagan Verma (72, 68); 142 HS Kang (74, 68), Vikram Rana (70, 72); 143 Chikkarangappa (74, 69); 144 Manav Das (75, 69), Abhinav Lohan (72, 72); 146 Saurav Bahuguna (72, 74); 147 SK Lakra (74, 73), Jasjeet Singh (72, 75), Rashid Khan (71, 76); 148 Rahul Bakshi (78, 70), Karan Vasudeva (74, 74), Samresh Sardar (74, 74), Karan Singh (73, 75), Arshdeep Tiwana (71, 77), Tarun Ghogale (71, 77) UNI MSP MV HVB1930

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