India’s young golfing star, Anika Varma, who recently celebrated her 16th birthday, seems to love the taste of professional golf. Although still an amateur, Anika Varma decided to play professional events, rightly so, with her past record of tied-5th finish at the Hero Women’s Indian Open in October last and the shutting down of her school due to COVID-19 pandemic in California (where she resides) made it even easier to choose to play on the Cactus Tour, a developmental tour based out in Arizona for college golfers and professionals looking to hone their skills.
A 13-hour long road trip ensued along with her parents, her coach, Noah Montgomery, Hanna Montgomery (his daughter & budding golfer) and Paige Lee, a five-time winner on the Cactus Tour from Roseville, California to Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, Arizona, the first stop for their competition from March 18-20. The event saw her among the 27 hopefuls who had arrived to win, including two-time major winner Anna Nordqvist, the eventual winner of the tournament later.
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Anika ventured onto play five events in a row during her month-long stay, while still working with Noah Montgomery in his presence at the venues. Her best result of tied-second came at Sundance Golf Club (the second event), and soon Anika added a total of three top 10’s, a tied-13th and a tied-11th finish to her name.
Anika went on to shoot 73, 72 & 70 to finish with 1-under 215 for a tied-13th position. Learning from the experience, she joined in the second event at Sundance Golf Club (Mar. 25-27), where she missed out on her maiden professional win with a total score of 8-over par, four behind LPGA rookie, Sarah Burnham, for a joint second place on the leaderboard. Her performance boosted her morale and later, she was seen shooting 6-over par in Suncity to finish tied-9th, followed by a tied-5th result at Apache Creek and a tied-11th at Union Hills, as recently as yesterday.
Cactus Tour, the only professional sporting event still running in the world, ensured proper adherence to the directions of Arizona State Governor for the safety of its players from Covid-19. Some of its safety measures included the use of sanitiser, single-player per cart, putting with pins in and keeping a safe distance of over 6 feet from your competitor, making the players and parents relieved of any danger.
Anika and her coach have been working extensively on swing changes and short game for a while now, starting way back before the Women’s Indian Open and the results have started to show too. Showering praise on Anika, Noah was quick to support on her decision to play five continuous events and said, “Anika is an accomplished golfer, and I think by playing in these pro events she got a good competition to face, in terms of field, windy weather and gained experience on playing five different courses, with different designs and fast greens of Arizona. By playing five tournaments in a row, a young player’s weakness comes out in the open, and it helps me to decide on how to help the player more efficiently.”
Adding to the conversation when Noah was asked about the pressure of being in the field with seasoned LPGA and Symetra Tour players Noah said, “Yes, there were seasoned and more experienced players in the field, but what’s unique about golf is, you don’t play against your opponents, you play against the golf course.” Quoting, the legend, Ben Hogan, he adds, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course… the space between your ears.”
Well, it’s one thing to know things, and another to employ them to your use, and, Anika seems to have mastered the ability to grasp the knowledge shared by Noah. Coach Noah Montgomery and pupil Anika Varma head back home with satisfying results and will look forward to coming back soon for more competitions.