Jun 2, 2017: India’s Aditi Ashok has enjoyed a meteoric rise as a golf professional after emerging from an unlikely background, initially achieving success in her home continent of Asia and then in astonishing fashion on the Ladies European Tour (LET) last year.
Having become the youngest player and first Indian to secure an LET card, Ashok produced a barnstorming finish to her debut campaign with back-to-back wins at the Hero Women’s Indian Open and the Qatar Ladies Open, ending the 2016 season placed second on the Order of Merit while earning the LET’s Rookie of the Year award.
Fast forward a few months, and teenager Ashok is now testing herself on the United States-based LPGA Tour, the most competitive circuit for the world’s best female players where she has one crystal-clear goal in her sights before the year-end.
“Coming into 2017, my target was definitely to win Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour because if you win that award, then you know you are one of the best on tour,” Ashok told LPGA.com at Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club where she is competing in this week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“Just being best of all the newcomers this year would mean a lot to me. I’ve kind of fallen behind a bit but I still know if I can play a couple of good events then I will be right up there”, said Aditi with confidence.
Ashok has played in five events so far this season, making the cut in four of them with a best finish of tied for 42nd at the ANA Inspiration, the first of the year’s five major championships on the LPGA Tour.
“I know making four out of five cuts is okay but I feel I could have done a lot better, especially compared to the other rookies in the race this year,” said the 19-year-old from Bangalore, who began playing golf at the tender age of five. “Some of them are doing so well, almost winning every other week so I still know I have a lot to do this year.
“I could have done a few shots better every week that I have played. Just a few shots (dropped) on this tour and almost 20-30 girls go ahead of you so I just need to play tighter golf, not make as many mistakes. I feel like I have been making enough birdies through the year.”
THE CHALLENGE OF THE LPGA TOUR
Ashok, who represented her country at the Rio Olympics last year, has found the LPGA Tour much more challenging than the LET because of its stronger and deeper fields but she would not want it any other way.
“Ever since I was a child, if I did achieve something, I was never really interested in just staying there,” she said of her decision to transition as quickly as possible from the LET to the LPGA Tour. “I always wanted to do one better.
“When I was 12 years old, I didn’t want to compete with the under-13s and below that back in India, I just wanted to go and compete with the under-18s. It was a case of always trying to be one step ahead because I wanted to challenge myself. Even if I hadn’t won on the LET last year, I knew my game was good enough and I had the potential to be on the LPGA.”
Asked what had surprised her most during her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, Ashok replied: “Not so much the travel or the courses that we play on but just the challenge of finding my pace.
“During the week as it is, we have four rounds of golf and then you have a pro-am and to get enough practice and to balance it with enough rest, that’s one aspect that I have been trying to work on properly.
“And when I am playing my rounds, just not getting too fast because sometimes you find afternoon rounds take more time and morning rounds are quicker …it’s getting used to the pace out here so when I am on the ball I don’t feel hurried or I don’t feel impatient either. Sometimes I feel like I am waiting too much and sometimes I am feel that I don’t take enough time.”
Ashok’s LPGA Tour experience is a world away from her early years as a golfer in Bangalore, where she was introduced to the game as a five-year-old after she and her parents had enjoyed breakfast at a hotel which overlooked the driving range of the Karnataka Golf Association.
“In my city, which has a population of 11 million, there are just six good golf courses, a couple of driving ranges and that’s about it,” said Ashok. “They do have junior programs in India but it’s definitely not like South Korea or the United States where golf is so easy to pick up.
“The main issue with growing the game of golf in India is that it is much more expensive than any other sport there. For badminton, you just need a racket; for cricket, you just need a bat and a ball whereas for golf you need all that infrastructure, a whole golf course, you need shoes, a golf bag, balls. That’s why kids don’t really take to golf in India.”
LPGA Tour Release