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Dhaka: Local hero Siddikur led the home charge by taking the opening round lead at the Grameenphone Bangladesh Masters on Thursday.


Siddikur, the first player to play and win on the Asian Tour, wielded a hot putter as he returned with a sizzling six-under-par 66 at the US$75,000 Asian Development Tour event.


Bangladeshis Md. A. Motin and Md. Liton Howlader occupied second and third placing with a solid 68 and 69 respectively while Japanese duo Hirotaro Naito and Yosuke Tsukada, Malaysian Rizal Amin and Md. Sayum Miah of Bangladesh shared fourth place with identical 70s at the Kurmitola Golf Club.


Siddikur lived up to his billing as the top player in the event where he made 24 putts, highlighted by five consecutive one putts from the 11th hole, in a round of seven birdies against one bogey.


I couldn’t control my emotions last week (in the Bangladesh Open) and that led to some silly mistakes. It was much better today as I was able to maintain my composure and remain focus,” said Siddikur who won the Brunei Open on the elite Asian Tour last season.


He believes the Grameenphone Bangladesh Masters, which is the curtain raiser for the Asian Development Tour season, will inspire and act as a learning curve for budding golfers in Bangladesh.


“There are many things our professionals need to learn and through the Asian Development Tour, they will be able to develop their game and continue to improve,” said the 26-year-old, who started golfing with a makeshift seven iron head stuck to a metal rod.


His compatriot Motin surprised even himself when he returned with five birdies against one bogey. A former ball boy at Kurmitola Golf Club, Motin started golfing by practising his golf swing with a tree branch but believes golf in Bangladesh has taken a turn for the better.


“We could not afford to buy golf equipments last time and had to rely on items such as tree branches or second hand golf clubs. Golf is 100% different now compared to last time. It is much popular and many younger children are taking up the game. In time, with more professional events, I think golf will be even more popular,” said the 39-year-old, who plays competitively in Nepal.


Former Asian Tour champion Bryan Saltus of the United States, who played with Siddikur today, hopes to revive his career as he seeks to return into the elite Tour. The top three players on the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn 2012 Asian Tour cards.


Saltus endured a slow patch after winning the 2007 Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open where he lost his Asian Tour card for 2010 and failed to finish in the top-40 of Qualifying School last month as he struggled with injury.


“I’m going to play more on the Asian Development Tour as I had an unsuccessful qualifier (Asian Tour Qualifying School) because of a back and wrist injury. It was pretty disappointing but I guess I’m just getting old,” said the 39-year-old, who shot a 71 today.


He played in two professional events last year but believes his desire to succeed has not wane. “I’ve won out here before and playing on this Tour I believe I can win again. I told myself that 2010 was a wash. I’m not going to even think about last year,” he added.


The Asian Development Tour, structured along the lines of the Nationwide Tour in the United States and European Challenge Tour, was launched in 2010 with tournaments already staged in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Chinese Taipei.


Leading first round scores

66 – Siddikur (Ban)

68 - Md. A. MOTIN (Ban)     

69 - Md. Liton HOWLADER (Ban)    

70 - Hirotaro NAITO (Jpn), Yosuke TSUKADA (Jpn), Rizal AMIN (Mas), Md. Sayum MIAH          (Ban)

71 - Justin BRINK (Irl), Bryan SALTUS (Usa), Md. Jakiruzzaman (A) (Ban) 71, Ross CANAVAN (Eng)                  

72 - Md. Milon AHMED (Ban), Neil REILLY (Eng), Md. Zamal Hossain MOLLAH (Ban), Lindsay RENOLDS (Can), NAY Bala Win Myint (Myn)

73 - Takafumi KAWANE (Jpn), Javed INAYAT (Pak), Naoto NAKANISHI (Jpn), Danyaal JEHANGIR (Pak)


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