Out in India at the moment, a golfing fanatic might be in two minds as to which he would prefer of the proverbial pot of gold or Aditi Ashok's golden putting touch. The 23-year-old Ashok was the outstanding putter afield in the Olympics as she finished just one shot from a bronze medal and two shy of Nelly Korda’s winning tally.
Ashok knows that golf in India is seen as a ridiculously elite sport but, as she told GGP at last week’s Women’s Scottish Open, “Anyone can do what I’ve just done if they want it enough.”
Back in 2008, the then 29-year-old SSP Chawrasia, an erstwhile caddie, said much the same after he won the Indian Masters in Delhi from Mark O’Meara and Ernie Els among other major championship winners in the field.
I remember marvelling at how much hope he would have given all those caddies who followed him ’round but, just as surely, I remember my conversation with a lady member of Royal Delhi.
Never mind that she was carrying a “Quiet Please” board, this former Indian Women’s Amateur champion told me all about the club’s caddies and how, with the members’ help, they had progressed at a rate of knots. First to the local amateur scene and from there to the local professional circuit.
“They work harder at their golf than you would believe possible,” she said.
Since the handful of girl golfers who played at Royal Delhi in those days did not exactly strain themselves, my companion had asked one of the caddies to talk to them. He, in turn, told the girls that if they came to the club at 5 o’clock the next morning, he would work with them on their short games. To their credit, they all turned up, and not just on that one occasion.
Ashok, who would only have been 10 at the time, knew nothing of these goings-on in Delhi. However, it may well be no coincidence that Indian girls’ golf came on in leaps and bounds in the next few years, paving the way for Ashok, among others, to graduate to the Ladies’ European Tour and the American college scene. Ashok herself recalled how the number of girls on the Indian junior tour had shot up from 20 to 60 in her time.
Today, you have to wonder to what extent Indian women's golf will take off now that she has done as Chawrasia in being such a source of inspiration.
Going back to Chawrasia’s final round, my board-carrying companion and I enjoyed the most improbable of closing chats. We were wandering down the 18th when I mentioned an earlier visit to Delhi in which I had attended a party hosted by a prominent referee. At some point, he and his wife had told me about their earliest days together.
Theirs had been an arranged marriage and, around four months further on, they had set out for their first round of golf, only to discover on the first tee that they both were left-handed. And that, they told me, was the moment they agreed that their parents had chosen wisely on their behalf.
By then, my new friend had leaned her board up against an official's buggy and was looking at me in total astonishment. “You are talking about my parents,” she said.