The Aditi Ashok Story
The perception surrounding golf started to change with big names like JeevMilkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, and Jyoti Randhawa taking it up as a career, and making a mark at the international level.
In recent times, the likes of Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chawrasia and Gaganjeet Bhullar have followed in the footsteps of their contemporaries. All along, the men have stamped their authority on Indian golf, and raised our nation’s flag high, leaving a widening gap between men’s and women’s golf in India.
There seldom comes a time in a sport where an individual can influence the way the sport is perceived in a country in a single-handed manner. If you haven’t heard the name Aditi Ashok by now, you are probably not a golf fan!
She is not only responsible for shining the spotlight on Indian women’s golf, but also inspiring a nation of youth especially young girls to take up the sport, at such a young age herself.
I always feel that it is very tough for the first person to tread in an area that has not been explored yet. While there have been a few women golfers from India who have had some success in the past, it cannot be compared to what Aditi has achieved in such a short span of time.
Aditi started playing golf at the age of 5, and had already won her first tournament by the time she was 10. This was around the first time I met Aditi and her parents at a local tournament as I had just started playing as well. She was extremely shy and unassuming. She would compete in the same age category and tee off from the same tees as the boys.
Even at that age she would beat the boys hollow, much to their dismay. While her talent was never in doubt, I was amazed at the level of dedication, commitment and maturity she displayed at such a young age.
Since then she has amassed a wealth of titles and experience, spanning many countries. She has been representing India since the age of 12 at prestigious events such as the Asian Youth Games in 2013, the Youth Olympic Games and the Asian Games, both in 2014.
I think what sets her apart from others is her mental strength, an attribute I would credit her mother for instilling in her. She is unfazed by pressure situations, and on the contrary thrives on them. When I have had the opportunity to play against her, I have seen that she can shift gears and raise the standard of her game at will.
In a game that gets the better of even the most mentally strong golfers, Aditi is a breath of fresh air.
I got her to answer some questions amidst her busy golfing schedule:
1) How were you introduced to the game and what drew you to it at such a young age?
I started playing at the age of five and a half. I really enjoyed putting and so I wanted to get better at all the different parts of the game and that’s why I kept going back to learn the game. I started competing at the age of seven, and when I started competing with other kids my age, that’s when it got really fun for me.
Also the fact that everyday is different when you play, and you never play the same shot twice. As a school going child, playing a sport was a lot of fun and it added variety to my life.
2) I largely credit your parents, having known them, for a lot of your success today. What role have they played since the beginning in shaping your career?
Yes, my parents have been an integral part of my growth and to achieve success as a sportsperson at any level requires great support from parents. In my case, every step was well planned keeping in mind my strengths and I'd credit my mom for playing the role of a guide and planning well.
Another important aspect is that I work with my coaches who are based outside India, and my dad shares feedback with my coaches as he is able to do that by caddying for me, which has greatly helped in knowing the few aspects of my game that can be improved.
3) How do you deal with pressure situations?
I always try and fall back on my pre-shot routines and think of it as one process at a time. Not think ahead or get ahead of myself.
4) What are your suggestions to get more young girls and women to play golf in India? Your advice to young kids wanting to take up the sport?
I would encourage them to pick up the sport because anyone can play it for a really long time. It’s fun, but there is no shortcut to success, and so hard work is very important. And there are enough opportunities to make a living out of it too.
5) What is your thought process over a 10-foot putt to win a tournament?
I think of it as any other 10-footer I would be making in practice.
6) One of my most memorable golfing moments is our All India Match Play final at the 2014 Nationals. What are your memories of that encounter?
That was a fun day as it was my second national championship win. We played great, and I remember how you won three holes in a row to reduce my lead which made it harder to win.
7) How easy/ difficult is it to be a female athlete in India compared to male athletes? What are some of the challenges you have faced in this regard, if any?
I believe I have paved my own career path. Having said that, I'd also like to acknowledge that the men golfers from India have shown the way. They are great examples of how one can achieve success at the highest level despite the system.
8) If you could pick anyone, who would your dream four ball comprise of?
Rory McIlroy, Annika Sorenstam, Tiger Woods and me.
9) If you had to ask yourself one question and answer it, what would that be?
Why do I play golf? Because everyday is different and you never play the same shot twice and of course it’s fun.
Although Aditi’s journey the top of the women’s golf summit has just begun, she has started with a bang. It adds to the achievements of other female athletes such as SainaNehwal, PV Sindhu, Mary Kom, Sakshi Malik and Sania Mirza in sports that have been predominantly dominated by their male counterparts.
What her performances have done to impact a lesser known sport like golf, might only be appreciated in the long run but one thing is for sure, you will hear a lot more of Aditi Ashok in the future.Modified 20 Dec 2019, 09:28 IST