10 December 2021: The year 2021 will be an historic memory, decorated by some stellar achievements from the next generation of girls in Indian golf. A new wave of Gen Y and Z golfers arrived on the scene with great panache. Avani Prashanth, still an amateur, is one of the many emerging golfers, showing that they can compete at the highest level with great skill and composure.
The story of the rise of female golfers in India began in the summer of 2007, when an offer to stage a Ladies European Tour event in India was made to the Women’s Golf Association of India. Golf at the Olympics was still a distant dream at that stage.
Sometime in the middle of June 2007, standing on Delhi Golf Club’s famous pub terrace in blazing heat, one wondered if and how the idea could be taken forward. Just a handful of professional women golfers, a few exemptions and a little sanction fee; would this be enough to support the Association’s administration for a few months? In the end though, accepting the offer was indeed a courageous decision.
By November of 2007, the Women’s Golf Association of India was well on its way to partnering the first ever Ladies European Tour event on Indian soil, at the Eagleton Golf Resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru. The dates were set for the first week of December. The administrative team of WGAI during that time was three people.
Mumbai based Arjuna awardee Anjani Desai, who attended this historic event, was overjoyed as she posed with great pride next to the trophy, a replica of the iconic Bahai Temple. An important phase of women’s golf in India had just begun!
At that time, although professional golf for females was in its nascent stages, WGAI was able to negotiate with the Ladies European Tour for 12 exemptions, and one exemption spot for the Dubai Ladies Masters as well. A handsome sum of Rupees Eight lakhs was paid by the LET as WGAI’s share of the sanction fee.
Since then, there has been no looking back! Seventeen years on, women’s golf has indeed come a long way, our players taking small strides every year. 2021, however, has been an exceptional year for Indian women golfers. Two Indian players, Aditi Ashok and Diksha Dagar, both of whom represent Gen Y, made it inside the top 60 for the Tokyo Olympics.
The performance of Aditi Ashok in Tokyo was a remarkable event. She achieved a new peak, finishing fourth with an outstanding effort. The two-time Olympian had India awake during the early hours of August 7th, 2021 to watch and understand what it takes to represent the country at the Olympics.
Striking form at the right time, with a world ranking of just 200, Aditi outshone many famous names that dominate professional golf. Her run in the Olympics produced a red-letter day for Indian women’s golf. Diksha Dagar, who managed to qualify at the 60th spot, did well to finish in 50th place.
Playing her second LET season, Tvesa Malik, who was a reserve on the Olympic list, had a very commendable season in 2021. Tvesa, another gutsy Gen Y player, finished 27th on the LET Order of Merit, earning close to eighty thousand Euros. She has developed a superior temperament playing alongside leading players from both the LET and LPGA, and has secured her LET Tour Card for 2022. In yet another all-time high, a total of twelve Indian players are currently at LET’s Q-School in Spain, vying for the 2022 Tour card.
Back home, on the domestic Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour, Hitaashee Bakshi established a course record 65 at Hyderabad’s Boulder Hills Golf & Country Club. Her sister Jahanvi is a multiple winner on the WGAI this season. And not to forget, Amandeep Drall won the 7th leg with a ladies course record 65 in the final round at the Chandigarh Golf Club.
Amateur Avani Prashanth, the promising 15-year-old Gen Z Bengalurean, emerged winner in a couple of professional events in 2021, and also bagged the prestigious Billoo Sethi Trophy, a 36 holes stroke play tournament as well as the All India Ladies match play title in late November. Avani’s ball striking ability underscores her potential to be the premier player in Indian women’s golf.
During November, there were multiple ladies golf tournaments being played in India simultaneously. 88 ladies participated in the 27th Punjab Ladies Amateur Open Golf Championship in Chandigarh, 50 at the Ladies All India at Noida Golf Club, 24 professionals at Hyderabad and more players who are based overseas. Several Gen Y and Z girls including Anika Varma made their mark at the Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific event at Abu Dhabi.
There is a great future for our Indian women golfers with the ever-increasing pool of players. The surge of Gen Y and Z golfers augurs well for Indian golf and promises to keep the tri- colour flying high in the years to come.
Champika Sayal, Secretary General, WGAI