Prodigy Aditi Ashok ready to become a driving force for Indian golf
India’s Aditi Ashok will be blazing several trails in Rio next month. The only female Indian golfer among the 60-strong field, she will also, at just 18, be the youngest competitor on view. And yet, she will have more Olympic experience than virtually all of the others.
In Rio, golf is set to make its official return to the Olympic programme after a 112-year absence. However, Aditi is one of a select band of golfers who have already had the chance to show off their skills on the Olympic stage, as their sport featured at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.
Aditi took up golf when she was just five years old, when her parents decided that it would make for a good family pastime. It soon became clear that she had a natural flair for the sport, and by the age of seven she was already competing in tournaments. Sport, says the 18-year-old “teaches you the skills and lessons you need for life”. On that basis she has the world at her feet.
She says taking part in the YOG two years ago was a special experience and a highly enjoyable one.
“It was fun playing the team event at the YOG,” she reflects. “I played with a lot of players who are now professionals with me on the Ladies European Tour which is nice. I first played the Asian Youth Games at Nanjing in 2013 and I was motivated to work hard and qualify for the YOG the following year. I consider it an honour to have had the chance to represent my country at the Youth Olympic Games, as qualification went to the best junior boy and girl in the country. And playing at the YOG gave me the extra motivation to make it to Rio 2016.”
She was also an active participant in the Learn and Share programme in Nanjing that is now a core part of the Youth Olympic Games experience.
“I enjoyed trading lapel pins and visiting the culture booths. There was so much to learn and experience just by visiting various booths. It was also a unique experience to be among athletes from so many other sports. I loved the way everything was done at the YOG. It’s great for under 18 athletes – the whole experience gives you a taste for what it’s like at the Olympics. It will definitely help having had the Youth Olympic Games experience. I know what to expect and so it won't be an entirely new experience at the Olympics.”
Despite her youthful age, she has already packed in plenty of proud achievements, including winning the Ladies European Tour's Qualifying School, and the St. Rule Trophy at St Andrews – the home of golf – which she describes as “a dream come true”. She is equally proud of her academic achievements, which have required a lot of juggling. “Balancing my studies and getting good grades in school especially the last few years feels good as I had to miss a lot of classes for my golf tournaments,” she explains.
“Competing at Rio 2016, especially after having played at the YOG will be a big deal. And being the only female golfer from India to achieve this is an immense honour. My preparations for Rio started back in 2013 when I carefully planned the tournaments I wanted to play in order to improve my world amateur ranking and eventually play a few professional tournaments on ranked tours to help me get into the field of 60 players who qualify for Olympics. I got into the top 60 earlier this year just before I played my first tournament as a professional.”
Aditi says she owes a lot to her mother, who was closely involved in mapping out her rout to Rio.
“My mom helped me plan my schedule and I have also been working closely with my golf and fitness coaches to prepare well for Rio 2016.”
She is certainly aiming high, with a position on the podium in her sights. “In terms of my objectives in Rio I just want to enjoy the week, give it my best and aim to win a medal for my country,” she says confidently.And she is already plotting her trajectory beyond Rio too. “Hopefully the Games will give me a good springboard to improve my position on the Ladies European Tour. As a rookie, my focus is to perform well in all the tournaments I play. I hope to finish in the Top 10 of the Ladies European Tour order of merit, to win the Rookie of the Year, and qualify for the LPGA tour.”