In April 2017, Mike Round, Director of Development on the Ladies European Tour (LET), visited New Delhi for the 6th India Golf Expo. Speaking to a gathering that included the entire Indian golf industry, Round stressed on the need for working together to grow the women’s game in the country similar to what has been an ongoing process for years in Europe.
Fast forward to November, the Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI), the Indian Golf Union (IGU) and the LET (supported by R&A) worked in tandem to facilitate an achievers’ camp for young golfers from across the country. Held during the Hero Women’s Indian Open at the DLF Golf & Country Club, the juniors came in from cities that included Pune, Kolkata, Bangalore and Delhi NCR among others. This was the first time that such a camp was held on the LET.
WGAI secretary-general Champika Sayal was referring to the success that Bengaluru-based Aditi Ashok has had, including three wins on the LET. Asked how golf can be popularized in India, Ashok said: “If golf could be introduced at a school level in India, I think we could have many more juniors playing the game.”
The camp began with an introduction to the workings of the LET as an organisation. The juniors were also given a brief history of the Tour that was launched back in 1978, rounding up the session with a few visuals that showed the 2016 season in review and the Solheim Cup.
World No. 20 Carlota Ciganda, the highest-ranked player in the field, next conducted a clinic for the juniors, their parents, and members of taste behind-the-scenes the host club.
Ciganda discussed the importance of education, her routine before playing a competitive round and her practice schedule. Kids were then invited to hit balls with her. To the delight of everyone present, Ciganda put on a ball striking clinic before India’s Simi Mehra took centre stage.
While Se Ri Pak is universally acknowledged as South Korea’s trailblazer, Mehra was the first Indian to play on the LPGA Tour. “When I was 14, I told my mother I wanted to play on the LPGA Tour. It wasn’t easy to do so considering that no one from India had ever done it before. Annika (Sorenstam) once helped me with my putting stroke before a round. She then went on to tell me that we must play together against the course, and battle like lions. We need strong, independent athletes like her in our country.”
Day two of the camp saw Champika Sayal take centre stage. Sayal, whose experience with the sport goes back 45 years, spoke to the juniors at the DLF Golf & Country Club about how they could go ahead with careers in the game. “I want every junior who takes up golf to believe that the game is their BFF (best friend forever).”
Later the kids were ushered to two clinics held by India’s Neha Tripathi and Scotland’s Carly Booth. Tripathi who is one of the leading players on the WGAI, spoke about the essentials attached to the full swing including judging distances, the importance of a pre-shot routine and the pressure attached to playing the game professionally.
“When I was growing up playing golf, there were not even these many kids as there are in this camp today. Goes to show the gradual growth of the game,” she said.
Booth has two wins on the LET apart from clocking a stellar junior and amateur career during which she broke numerous records. On the DLF driving range, she hit a few shots for the juniors explaining her reasons to turn professional early and balancing all aspects of life as an athlete. When asked by a junior what her most pressure-packed moment as a professional was, she spoke about her win at the Swiss Open back in 2012.
“We were in a three-way playoff (including Germans Anja Monke and Caroline Masson) during which we birdied the par-5 18th hole three times each. It took an eagle during the fourth extra hole to finally shut the door and take the trophy home. ”
(Read more in the December issue of Golf Digest India. Download here.)