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Day I throws up trio of leaders

Calcutta: Rookie Ashok Kumar strung together a hat-trick of birdies on his closing holes to leap into joint-lead alongside defending champion Vivek Bhandari and Shamim Khan at three-under 69 on Wednesday after the opening round of the Noida Open 2002 being played at the par-72 Noida Golf Course.

The tournament forms the 15th leg of the 2002-03 season of the Hero Honda Golf Tour.

Another Delhi golfer Dinesh Kumar was placed fourth at two-under 70 while yet another Delhiite Zai Kipgen was placed fifth at one-under 71, according to information reaching here.

Today, Ashok, a tenth-tee starter, played his entire front-nine to par. On his return journey, he birdied the very first hole, but was set back by consecutive bogeys on the following two holes, both due to wayward efforts off the tee. Thereafter he recovered his touch, first sinking a 15-feet birdie putt on the fourth, then closing his round with a hat-trick of birdies on the seventh, eighth and ninth, where he sank 20, 10 and 30 feet putts, respectively.

The Delhi-based Bhandari, who has been forced into the Qualifying stages of the Asian PGA Tour for the first time in seven years, is hoping to get back into good form at the very tournament where he played 19-under last year.

The 31-year old Delhi Golf Club pro played error free golf with birdies on the fourth, 14th and 17th highlighting his day’s card of three-under 69.

Shamim Khan, after starting the day with an accurate approach shot that left him with a two feet birdie putt, suffered a slight hiccup when he dropped a shot on the third.

Bagging his second birdie on the fourth and then another on the sixth, the Delhi golfer went on to bogey the eighth to make the turn at one under. Regaining his composure on the back-nine the diminutive golfer birdied the 14th and 18th to tie for the lead.

SCORES (after 18 holes): 69_Vivek Bhandari, Ashok Kumar, Shamim Khan; 70_Dinesh Kumar, Sanjay Kumar; 71_Zai Kipgen, Pappan; 72_Uttam Mundy, Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia, Ajay Gupta, Vinod Kumar, Karan Singh, Randhir Ghotra; 73_Mukesh Kumar, Nabin Mondal, Ali Sher, Monish Bindra, Sheeraz Kalra, Amritinder Singh, Raju Joseph. Amateurs: 74_Aparoop Saikia; 75_Simarjeet Singh, Gagan Verma

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