The number 100 has a special ring about it and it is not often that a Championships celebrates its 100th staging, as the USHA 100th All India Ladies Amateur Championships of golf did in December. And, it could not have come at a better time. This comes at a time when Indian women golfers are taking off in the real sense of the word.
As Aditi Ashok scaled new peaks with two titles in her Rookie Year and overall second place on the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit and a conditional status on the Ladies PGA in the United States, there is an entire bunch ready to follow in her footsteps.
Friends tell me more and more parents are bringing in daughters to play golf at the Karnataka Golf Association course, where Aditi had her first lessons in golf. The same is the case in Delhi, Chandigarh and elsewhere. I call this the ‘Aditi Effect’.
This year, India had no less than seven girls teeing up at LET Q-School Final Stage. After two rounds, there was Amandeep Drall, holding a share of the lead. And when the dust had settled Amandeep (T-7), Vani (T-18) and Neha (T-25) had full cards while Sharmila Nicolett (T-42) and Saaniya Sharma (T-47) had limited status.
So, in 2017 there will be four Indian girls – including Aditi – besides Sharmila and Saaniya with limited status.
For sometime an Indian girl at the Ladies European Tour Qualifying School was an oddity. Sharmila did well to qualify through the Q-School, not once but twice. But both times she was unable to keep her card and now she is attempting another comeback after being pushed back by injuries and lack of form.
Last year, Aditi took the LET Final Stage of Qualifying School by storm, winning the medal honours and earning the card. No Indian player, men or women, had ever won the Qualifying School. Not just that she put strung together a series of Top-10 performances and made an appearance at Rio Olympics in between. And just as the Tour entered the final stretch, Aditi pull in back-to-back wins in Hero Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Masters and then finished third at the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. Suddenly she was a global star and she also earned a limited status on LPGA, missing the full card by a whisker.
At home, the USHA All India Ladies Amateur Championships showed that women’s golf was not exactly a new fad, for the event was celebrating its 100th staging – it was started in 1906, but a few editions were cancelled due to war in the initial years.
With Indian Golf Union putting in special efforts to rope in foreign players from about seven countries and a Royal and Ancient (R&A) also sending a team, the event was keenly contested and there was some good quality golf.
Even then an Indian girl, Diksha Dagar, all of 16, and overcoming a childhood hearing impairment, reached the final, before losing to a highly accomplished 21-year-old Malaysian Nur Durriyah Damian, who won three titles including Malaysian Ladies Amateur.
Diksha, who could neither hear nor talk till almost six years of age, now uses hearing aids and can converse in both Hindi and English. Encouraged by her father, Col Narender Dagar, and mother Sunita, the young Haryana golfer, who studies in a New Delhi school, Mount St. Mary’s, wants to turn pro. But not before representing India at the Asian games in Indonesia in a little over a year and a half.
“I am improving my game and want to play for India at Asian Games and also Olympic Games,” she says. She has already won the Faldo Series India title, besides three other wins this season in India. She is slated to play Faldo Series Grand Final in Vietnam, but is also due to appear in her Class X examinations. She will soon choose between the two, but one thing is certain, she has the game and even better the will to work towards what could be a fine career.
And she does not hesitate to say that Aditi Ashok’s accomplishments have been an inspiration for her.