One morning, a girl aged about five and a half years old happened to eat her breakfast near the Karnataka Golf Association driving range in Bangalore, and a passion was born. With a father who is as much of a friend as a guardian, and a mother with a delicate strength to pass on to her daughter, Aditi Ashok became a golfer. And a great one at that.
On August 17 this year, at the Rio Olympics, 18-year-old Aditi Ashok, the youngest in the fray, made history by being India's only golfer at the Games. This is the first time India is being represented in the women’s event in golfing.
“I don’t know who it comes from,” Aditi’s father Gudlamani told PGA Tour about her talent. “Not from me. I think her mom. Her mom is very focused, and she’s, in fact, the pillar of Aditi's whole golfing journey.”
Less than a year after that breakfast, Ashok began competing in tournaments and won her first one at the age of 9. When she was 12, she was on India’s national team. That was when there were no separate tournaments for boys and girls. But Ashok beat them all.
“I just clean the ball," - Gudlamani Ashok
As the years passed, Ashok won 17 tournaments as an amateur, and was the only Indian golfer to play in the Asian Youth Games, the Youth Olympic Games and the Asian Games. She won the Ladies’ European tour school at the age of 17. She turned pro this January.
When her mother, a former radio disk jockey, realised that Ashok wanted to qualify for the Olympics, the focus shifted to her energies and schedule. And now she's representing us at Rio.
“Golf every day is different. You never hit the same show twice. So every day is a new experience, and you can’t really come with any expectations. The game is bigger than all of us, so that’s what I like about it.” - Mash Ashok
“I thanked her for this opportunity. Because as kids, we all dream when we play, when we’re 10, 12 years old, we think that one day we will be Olympians. I couldn't do that. But she brought me to the Olympics.” - Gudlamani Ashok
- Ashok was eligible for the Olympics based on her world ranking.
- In the ongoing competition, Ashok shot through 36 holes and is 6 under, having shot a pair of 68s. That puts her into a tie for eighth, four shots off the lead held by Korea’s Inbee Park, who already has qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame. Ashok wants to qualify for the LPGA Tour. In four days, she’ll be in Rancho Mirage, California, for the first stage of Q School.
- Ashok became the first Indian to win the Lalla Aicha Tour School and therefore secure her Ladies European Tour card for the 2016 season. This win also made her the youngest winner of a Q School for an international tour.
- She was the only Indian golfer in the Asian Youth Games (2013) Youth Olympic Games (2014) and Asian Games (2014).
- She is ranked 462 in the world now. Just five golfers from India are listed in the Rolex Rankings. The next closest to Ashok is Vani Kapoor, ranked 807.
Ashok believes that golf is growing ever more popular in India. “The Olympics will turn the attention of viewers to golf and that’s very much needed," she told SheThePeople.TV. "It will definitely help grow the sport in a big way."
Her aim for the rest of the competition is: "To have four good, consistent rounds and have a great finish”.
That’s our medal contender talking.
Feature image credit: news18.com
Read more from our Rio series here
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