30 December 2021: Cheese, wine and some pickled eggs. Like many good things in life, they take a considerable amount of time to produce, mature and consume. As spoilt as some sports fans might be from the instant success of soaring youth, there is a certain delight in the tedious persistence of a determined athlete. Tvesa Malik can claim to have experienced a bit of the both ends of this fascinating spectrum after a consistent run on the Ladies European Tour in 2021.
Tvesa is a study in the evolution of a golfer, steadily climbing up the ladder, getting progressively better at her craft with each passing season. Since starting out as an eight-year-old on the tail of her elder sister Kasvi Malik, the well-travelled woman has carved herself space with relentless persistence, patience and tireless practice.
“I went to my first international event in Sri Lanka and won the event,” said Tvesa. “I still hadn’t won on the IGU at that point, but won at Lucknow very soon after that. Once I did that, I felt that I could actually do it and went one step to the next from there. I do not think if I can pin my journey as a golfer to an event or a stage, but I really did not think of much else.”
She has come a long way from collecting souvenirs off the 18th green at the DLF Golf and Country Club in 2007. In the fourteen years since then, Tvesa has carefully constructed a career in golf. She worked her way through the ranks, winning her first significant title on the WGAI during her amateur days. That promise met with affirmation when she won in Bengaluru on her debut as a professional. She collected a bunch of WGAI titles soon after turning professional, finding early success on the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour.
The step-up from there has challenged the Gurgaon based golfer to dig deep and discover solutions. In her third appearance at the Hero Indian Open, Tvesa showed she had the tools for success at the top tier of women’s golf. She made 72 and 71 to make her first cut on the Ladies European Tour, eventually finishing in T13 that week in 2018.
Emboldened and ready, Tvesa plotted her way to the LET through qualifying school in 2018. Tvesa was among seven Indians that made the final stage of qualifying that season – Diksha Dagar, Astha Madan, Saaniya Sharma, Vani Kapoor and Sharmila Nicollet were the other women.
Her first season on the LET tested Tvesa, forcing her to endure the distance between teasing success and tenuous existence. After missing three straight cuts, Tvesa did well to play the full week in seven of her next eight events, highlighted by a T6 at the Hero Indian Open. She finished 45th on the LET Order of Merit, securing full status on the Tour.
“I am ok that it is taking its time. I think of it as a process,” explains Tvesa. “I still have a long way to go.”
“There is always something you can do better. Practice smarter, better. There are days when you try at work at something, but finish the day completely dejected. You feel like you have turned worse. But you wake up the next day, ready for some more punishment. I guess this game is addictive and I cannot give up trying to be better at it.”
The emergence of Corona and a restricted calendar meant that Tvesa played eleven of the thirteen events in 2020, to finish 56th on the Race to Costa Del Sol. The return of a full schedule in 2021 enabled Tvesa to play a wholesome twenty events this season.
There is further affirmation that her golf is a work in progress. She has climbed to 19th on the Race to Costa Del Sol, and as frustrating as it might be to still remain searching for her first title in Europe, the trend is clearly encouraging.
“I am definitely playing closer to where I think I could,” submits Tvesa. “The experience in 2021 has taught me that I can win. I think I have gained in confidence this season. Obviously, it is still not a 100% where I want to be, but I am closer to it now.”
As she continues to plug away – six top ten finishes this season including a second-place finish in the Gant Ladies Open.
“I have known Tvesa since her childhood, going back to her family’s time in Kolkata,” said Brandon de Souza. The former golf pro is a close friend of Aloke and Ritu, Tvesa’s parents and the warmth of that bond extends to his association with the golfer. Tvesa considers Brandon her mentor and a key source of support in her journey on and off the course. “Brandon uncle has taken me under his wing and he is a big support to me, always has my back. I appreciate his advice and support.”
“Tvesa is a tenacious golfer, mentally strong and always willing to improve,” says Brandon. “She works really hard and I believe we are on track to see her realise her full potential.”
I mentioned driving distance, only to be dismissed by Brandon. “I have always held that the shorter parts of the game are more critical to doing well on the course. Gaining control with the mid and short irons can offer a great advantage and then it is down to putting well around the greens.”
Through 2021, Tvesa made 72.63% of the greens in regulation. But she is 51.43% working off the sand. She is averaging 1.72 putts per hole, pushing her stroke average to 72.45 per round. Those are numbers that she will look to improve. Tvesa is back home and already at work at the DLF Golf & Country Club.
Numbers aside, Brandon suggests that one of the things that he has been trying to induce into Tvesa is a killer instinct. “On a professional tour, everyone is out to care for their own. This is something that I have been speaking to Tvesa about. You need to be cordial with your fellow players, but you need to prepare to defeat them. I think that killer instinct is vital for success in professional golf.”
Tvesa came off a good run in Saudi Arabia to finish the season on a positive note. That is energy she will look to draw on when the Tour resumes in February and March, 2022. “I really want that win. I came close to it a few times this year. It is the big goal I am chasing, and I want to build from all the good work this season.”