Teen sensation ready to tee off at Rio5 min read
At a tender age of five, Aditi Ashok from Bengaluru picked up the golf club in her hands for the first time. In four years, she rose up the ranks to make it to the nationals and in three more years she was competing internationally. Now, nine years later, she is set to represent India at the Olympic level as golf returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1904.
After turning professional six months ago, she became only the second Indian woman after Simi Mehra to play in the Women’s British Open. Though she failed to make a mark in her first edition of the tournament, she is all set for the biggest sporting stage, the Olympics. A confident Aditi is aiming to convert her Olympic debut into a dream. Irrespective of the result, her journey to Rio will serve as the much needed boost for the overshadowed sport of women’s golf in India.
This is what the 18-year-old golfing sensation had to say when The Manipal Journal caught up with her.
Congratulations on making it to the Rio games. How does it feel to represent India at the big stage?
I’m going to be a part of the world’s greatest sporting event as one of the youngest Indians. So, it is very exciting for me. Also to be the only golfer to have played in the Asian Youth Games, Youth Olympics, Asian Games and now to play in the Olympic Games would be a great honor and a unique achievement. To be able to contest in the greatest sporting event in the world and be an Olympian would supersede all my achievements so far and I feel like it is a great accomplishment for my team and the result of all the hard work, vision and planning.
What inspired you to take up golf? Can you describe your journey so far?
I started playing at 5 and a half. My parents and I wanted to start something together as a family so we went to the golf course. I started with putting which caught my fancy. So I eventually went back to learn all parts of the game and I played my first 18 holes when I was 6 years and 2 months. When I started playing tournaments, I really had fun and enjoyed it. I finished top 10 in a Ladies European Tour event when I was 14. And I finished my amateur career ranked world no. 11. I also won the Ladies European Tour’s Qualifying School and I am now a professional golfer on the Ladies European Tour. The journey has been fun so far and I’m looking forward to the years to come.
When it was announced that golf would be included this year, were you chasing this dream? Also, you turned professional 6 months back. What were your plans then?
I found out in 2012 that golf would make its return after 112 years and I was really excited. As a golfer you don’t imagine that you can ever win an Olympic medal but now it is possible. So my mom and I planned events and we made an individual effort to play in professional events as an amateur. I got to play a few professional tournaments on a sponsor’s invite like the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters 2014, Sanya Ladies Open 2015, WPGA International Challenge 2014 and last year I also qualified for the Sime Darby LPGA 2015 and became the first Indian to play that event. Apart from these, I also played in five Hero Women’s Indian Opens through the Indian Golf Union, which really helped.
Unfortunately, your maiden run at the British Open ended soon. What do you take out of it?
It was a week of learning and a few memorable firsts for me. I wish I had played better to have a chance to play the weekend but it was definitely a tournament that helped me prepare better for Rio. The experience of playing with some of the bests in the world and playing in a major was invaluable.
Tell us about your preparations for the Olympics. What have you been working on?
In the last 18 months, I have had intensive training sessions with both my coaches, Steven Giuliano for golf and Nicolas Cabaret for performance training & fitness. These training sessions have helped me prepare better and work on all aspects of my game.
You have the experience of playing in a few international tournaments. How do you look at Rio now and what are you aiming for?
I got on the list of 60 players on 1st February before I had played my first event as a pro which was nice. I am sure the experience of having played the last few events since I turned professional will help me, especially the Ricoh Women’s British Open. Also to have played the in Asian Youth Games, Youth Olympics, Asian Games will help me in the Olympics as I will know what to expect. I feel I have prepared well over the last few months and I think if I play solid on all days I can aim for a great finish.What are your plans after the Olympics?
I am focusing on performing well on the Ladies European Tour and to have top finishes in my Rookie year. I am also looking at playing the LPGA Qualifying School.At the age of 18, how do you manage your academic and sporting life?
I have been travelling for golf tournaments from a very young age so I am used to balancing both my academics and my golf. Apart from that, my teachers have always been very supportive throughout my school life and helped me catch up with missed school work.
What do you have to say for youngsters pursuing golf in India?
Golf is a sport which you can play for a long time. So enjoy it and always work hard as that is what will help you perform, no matter what.
The Manipal Journal wishes Aditi Ashok good luck for the Olympics and all her future endeavors!