Nothing exemplifies the emerging power of women in Indian sports better than the meteoric rise of golfer, Aditi Ashok. Golf is not the most popular sport in the country although it is truly global and highly competitive. She is only 18 years of age, but she is already the best female talent ever in the sport the country has ever produced.
This has been a landmark year for Indian women in sports and Aditi has marked her spot in the top. Earlier in the month, she finished tied-third in the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. The youngster finished six-under alongside Florentyna Parker at the Emirates Golf Club. This helped her seal the Rookie of the Year honours.
This wasn’t her first top-10 finish. It’s amazing how much she has achieved at a young age. Aditi was only five when she took to the sport. She had accompanied her parents to breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the Karnataka Golf Association’s driving range. The little child was fascinated by people swinging golf clubs and immediately wanted to give it a try. This was the beginning of her tryst with golf.
In 2007, when she was only eight, Aditi watched over as golfers competed in the Emaar-MGF Ladies Masters at KGA. Her interest peaked, and she managed to convince her parents that golf was her future. Pandit Gudlamani Ashok, Aditi’s father, who is himself a BGC member, put her under the apprenticeship of Bamby Randhawa and later, Tarun Sardesai. Now, of course, Kuala Lumpur’s Steven Guiliano has taken over, and Nicholas Cabaret of France is her strength and fitness coach.
What is worth mentioning is her parent’s understanding that she had talent and supporting her throughout.
The five-year-old Aditi has grown up now. She is taller, stronger and is one of the biggest hitters in women’s golf. Her short game, as well, is outstanding. She trains hard on her chipping, which is already very elegant, but it’s the hard work one puts that counts at the end.
Aditi first came to the foray when she scripted history by becoming one of the youngest women amateur players to win the 54-hole St Rule Trophy at St Andrews Links in Scotland in 2015. Then she went on to clinch the Singha Thailand Amateur Championship in the women’s category. She also became the first Indian to win the Ladies’ British Amateur Tournament.
Later in the year, she became the first Indian ever to clinch a Qualifying School golf event on any International Tour when she grabbed the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Aicha Tour School title in Morocco. This achievement gave her the full playing rights for 2016, thereby making her the sole Indian flying the Tricolour on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
2016 was her year of rising to the top
Aditi became the first Indian female golfer ever to qualify for the Olympics, and despite failing to secure a medal, she performed very well. The first two days in Rio were incredibly good for the Bengaluru-based teen, who even took the lead at one point. However, she fell back on the last day, eventually finishing 31st.
After the Olympics, she became the first Indian to register three straight top 10 finishes at the Ladies European Tour when she shot a final round of three-under 69 to finish tied ninth at the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters held at the Golf Club Hubblerath, Germany.
She ended the year on a high with a tied third finish at the Dubai Ladies Masters tournament, thus capping off a brilliant year. But her greatest achievement of the year came at the Hero Indian Open. Aditi became the first Indian woman to win a Ladies European Tour title when she triumphed at the Hero Women’s Indian Open in Gurugram. On the final day, she carded an even-par 72 at the DLF Golf and Country Club to secure her victory.
From becoming the first and only Indian woman golfer at the Olympics to her first LET title, she truly deserves all the accolades that she is getting. Also, because she is only 18 years old, the only way for her seems to be upwards.
For now, here’s to yet another sportswoman from India who has made 2016 her own.