02 June 2020: Autumn is a good time in Delhi, friendly temperatures and steaming food fill the city with the aromas of hope and warmth. Tvesa Malik, though, was thinking about the receding monsoon. Stained cards of 83 and 75 on a familiar patch of grass came as a hard knock on the young woman. She began her professional career with a couple of quick victories, but the climb at the Hero Indian Open in 2017 left her numb. As she dragged her bag back from the familiar environs of the DLF Golf Club, Tvesa walked away into the night feeling grim and desolate.
Tvesa felt robbed. After all, she was a woman in love with golf and a couple of brutal rounds were threatening to steal her heart. “I came home and thought this might be it,” she told me. “But after an internal monologue through the night, I woke up wanting to do nothing else but play golf.” It was a relationship that was seeded in the rich fields of Tollygunge, where Tvesa accompanied her father and sister as a curious 10-year-old interested in the sport. The seeds have taken deep root for Tvesa, as she traversed through the KGA in Bengaluru before finding sanctuary at the DLF Golf Club.
A quest for improvement
Legendary American football coach, Vince Lombardi epitomised the role of fundamentals in sport and the need to focus on effort. “Perfection is not attainable,” he told his students. “But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence. “
It has been an incremental journey too for Tvesa, a woman given to tenacity rather than one lofty moment of heady romance. “The move to Delhi proved fateful. I don’t think I was working hard enough at the time, to be honest” said the candid 24-year-old. “But as I worked harder, I experienced better results. And it helped me put in some more effort. The game grew over time.” Playing as an amateur at DLF, watching stalwarts like Laura Davies in action and collecting golf balls at the 18th green were enough to secure Tvesa’s growing relationship with the game.
A late starter in golf, relatively, Tvesa took her time to blossom. Some early success, including the Ladies Open at DGC, fuelled her aspirations. But she endured several losses as an amateur, without ever willing to surrender her spirit. Some timely exposure helped inject some belief into the young woman. “Gaurika Bishnoi, Diksha Dagar and I spent my last year as an amateur travelling overseas for events,” she said. “Manisha Jaitha and Amandeep Johl were with us and they helped instil confidence just when I needed it the most. I gained belief during those days.”
The teenage years have dissolved several careers, but perhaps a late start helped Tvesa remain grounded. She may have been a shy teenager, but through the strength of character, the support of her parents and mentored by Brandon de Souza, Tvesa found refuge in golf. That was a cocoon of support that protected and nurtured Tvesa through her development as an athlete. But the key to her quest lay in the resolve and commitment for continuous improvement – fixing the downswing, delaying the extension of the arms, a chip here and a putt there – one stroke at a time, like the Japanese art of Kaizen.
Stand tall and stay professional
Despite her privilege, Tvesa is keenly aware that sport remains a tough endeavour for women in India. But she also believes that protection stems within. “It is about setting boundaries,” explains Tvesa. “It is your workplace and it is important to draw the lines, keep it professional. Many people might come to the golf club to relax, but we go there to work. It is also an individual sport and the dynamics are different. So there is no need to worry about external factors and it works in our favour.” Those are important lessons for young girls turning to golf for a professional career.
Grit, character and commitment separate Tvesa from the field. DLF may have left a few scars, but she is not one to shy away from a challenge. In 2018, Tvesa went back to the Hero Indian Open, showing her repertoire in full blossom. She played with great control to start the week with a 72-71 and this time there was no dragging the bag back. After finishing T13, Tvesa surfed the tide to earn a spot on the Ladies European Tour.
Riding out the storm
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a fun ride. Her introduction to the LET was like sailing a boat into a storm. Tvesa missed the cut in four of her first six LET events in 2019. It dawned on her that the cracks needed some mending. “I have been asking myself since the beginning of last year,” admitted Tvesa about her struggles on the LET. “I believe some part of it is mental, but it also has to be some glitches creeping into my game.”
In a typically characteristic bounce back, Tvesa persevered to play the full week in her next seven events, including a rousing T6 in the Hero Indian Open. These are traits that endeared her to Brandon, a family friend and one of the most respected golf aficionados in India. “I remember she had a good week to win the WGAI event at DLF. I found her in the gymnasium soon after, instead of a celebration” said de Souza, speaking about the second half of that season. It was Tvesa working extra hard, responding to the early bruises from the LET.
After an uneven start to the season, Tvesa looks at the enforced break from COVID-19 as an opportune moment for her to step back and work on her game. “I appreciate the hardships posed by coronavirus around the country. We are privileged to be speaking about golf,” acknowledged Tvesa. “Personally though the break has been very positive. I have relied on my natural instinct for my swing and putting. But the break has allowed me to reflect on my technique and setup. I cannot wait to get out there and start performing again.”
Tvesa seems to enjoy the scent of a trench. No gorge is deep enough for an athlete willing to work an extra hour. And you can picture the resilient lady doing just that, as she prepares for a return to action. Picture her too with some Sunday silver, as she embellishes a promising career with the strength of her character and commitment.