As she prepares to return to Abu Dhabi to retain her title at the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, reigning champion Aditi Ashok talks to editor Rachael Perrett about inspiring fellow Indian women and her parents’ instrumental role in her career.
Golf is arguably not the most popular sport in India. How did you get into it?
My parents and I started learning the game when I was five-and-a-half years old. I enjoyed it because every day I learned something different on the course.
I played my first tournament when I was seven, and competing with other kids my age was even more fun so I kept going.
Golf still isn’t among the popular sports in India, especially for women, but it is growing and we have seen an increase in the number of girls learning and playing in India, and in the number of Indians playing in the Women’s Indian Open, too, which is a good sign.
At 20 years old, you’ve already achieved so much in your career, including representing India at the 2016 Rio Olympics and becoming the first Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) player from India. How does it feel representing your country around the world?
It was a unique experience representing my country at the Olympics. Ever since I heard in 2012 that golf would be a part of the Olympics, I made it my goal, as I wanted to be there and represent my country.
I made an individual effort to play in professional events as an amateur and better my world ranking to qualify. Because golf is an individual sport, it is very uncommon to get a chance to represent your country, so I was happy to be able to do it on a big stage like the Olympics.
Playing on the LPGA has been fun; hopefully me being on the LPGA and performing every week will inspire more girls in India to take up the sport and even think of it as a profession.
Your father is your caddie. How important is your parents’ support to your career?
I think their immense support has been one of the reasons for my success from my early years. For any junior golfer, having their parents’ support is important and it goes a long way in keeping them interested enough to excel at the sport.
My father caddying for me is also a huge help because, apart from me, he knows my game the best, so that is valuable in making decisions during the round.
The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open aims to get more women into the sport. Why do you think golf is a great sport for ladies and young girls?
You can play it for a really long time. It’s never too early or too late to learn golf. I also find that it’s a very peaceful sport and is more mental than physical.
Having played here before, what challenges does the course present to you and the other players in the tournament?
The course is a picturesque design and has many undulations, which makes it harder to keep the ball on the fairways.
The greens are also very undulating and that makes it challenging to hit it close, especially if it’s windy and conditions are firm. It definitely makes for one of the best courses in the UAE and especially in Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi tournament kickstarts the 2019 Ladies European Tour calendar. What are your goals for this season?
An immediate goal is to defend my title in Abu Dhabi. But my main focus this year will be to perform well on the LPGA, especially at the majors, and to get myself in contention at events, as that’s something I haven’t yet done.
The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open returns to Saadiyat Beach Golf Club from 10th to 12th January. Entry is free. To register, visit: fbmladiesopen.com