India's women golfers start to make presence felt
Mention golf in India and the players who usually spring to mind are men like Jeev Milkha Singh, Anirban Lahiri and Jyoti Randhawa.
But the past decade has seen a number of Indian women golfers make their mark with three of them - Aditi Ashok, Diksha Dagar and Tvesa Malik - teeing off at the same major, the 2020 Women’s Open at Royal Troon, a feat the men have never achieved.
Golf in India, especially for women, gained even more ground when Aditi Ashok finished narrowly short of a medal at Tokyo 2020.
As the Indian golfing community celebrate the occasion, we take a look at some of the top Indian female golfers.
She might only be in her 20s, but Aditi Ashok is already an established name in the world of golf.
Having taken up the sport aged five, the Bengaluru golfer qualified for the Ladies European Tour (LET) in 2016.
While still 18, Aditi represented her country on golf's return to the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 and held the lead briefly during the second round before finishing 41st behind gold medallist Inbee Park.
But in November of that year came her big breakthrough as Aditi Ashok became the first Indian to win an LET Tour title at the Women's Indian Open, earning her front-page headlines.
Two weeks later, she won again at the Qatar Ladies Open and claimed the LET Rookie of the Year award.
Aditi also earned an LPGA Tour card, becoming the first Indian to play on the big American tour in 2017.
She claimed her third LET victory in Abu Dhabi in November 2017 and her performances on both sides of the Atlantic have made the world take notice of her golfing pedigree.
Her fame grew at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Aditi Ashok stayed in the top-three during the first three rounds and narrowly fell short of an Olympic medal on the final day, finishing fourth.
Over the years, Aditi Ashok has grown richer in experience and she is a regular contender on the LET and the LPGA Tours.
A keen athlete as a child, Sharmila Nicollet was already a swimming prodigy when she was introduced to golf by her cousin when 11.
But what initially started as a ‘fun outing’ to the golf course soon became serious business as the Bengaluru-born golfer went on to build a commendable amateur career in the coming years.
The Indian golfer enjoyed a stellar run on the amateur circuit with a number of titles including the 2008 All-India Ladies Amateur Championship and represented India at the 2006 Asian Games.
Ahead of the 2007 Indian Open, aged just 16, she partnered British star Laura Davies during a special challenge match two years before she turned professional.
Seeing the young Indian up close, Davies told Gulf News: “From my experience, she has the potential to be a good player.”
Though it took a while for her to establish herself in the pro ranks, Nicollet proved her credentials in 2012 as she became only the second Indian and the youngest Indian golfer to secure a full tour card for the Ladies European Tour.
Born almost completely deaf, Diksha Dagar’s rise to fame is a tale of courage and determination.
Introduced to the sport by her father Col. Narinder Dagar, Diksha has developed into a classy golfer known for her clean ball-striking.
Starting her amateur career as a 12-year-old, the left-hander first attracted the limelight when she was the best-placed amateur in the 2015 Indian Open.
A year later, she broke into the world's top 500 for Under-18s and then claimed her first success against professionals on the 2017 Hero Women's Pro Golf Tour.
Diksha also took silver at the 2017 Deaflympics before representing India in both individual and team events at the 2018 Asian Games.
Diksha eventually turned pro in 2019 and announced herself on the circuit with victory at the LET's South African Women's Open.
She finished one stroke clear of home favourite and three-time champion Lee-Anne Pace to join Aditi as an Indian LET title winner.
Diksha Dagar made her Olympics debut at Tokyo 2020 after being granted a late entry and finished tied-50th.
Tvesa Malik who had a unique introduction to the sport. A regular at the Karnataka Golf Association’s course in Bengaluru with her sister, Malik was just 11 years old when she had the opportunity to volunteer at the 2007 Women’s Indian Open.
This proved to be the turning point for the youngster as it provided her with not only the determination to make a career out of golf but also a rich collection of golf balls as mementoes.
Over the years, Malik climbed the domestic ladder before turning pro in 2017 and topping the 2018 Women's Golf Association of India Order of Merit.
She secured her LET card at qualifying school that year but her debut season started off in less-than-spectacular fashion.
Malik improved with experience, however, and made the cut in eight out of 12 events with the highlight her tied-sixth finish at the Women's Indian Open.