In the Firstpost Masterclass, Aditi Ashok talks about her journey, the challenges of being a female golfer in India, the intricacies of golf from a mental, physical and dietary point of view, before recognizing that her career is leading to a revolution for women’s golf in the country.
editor te: Professional sport is both a scientific and a recreational wonder. What routinely seems mundane is the result of hours spent honing the craft and deciphering body mechanics until it becomes a monotonous muscle memory. In the Firstpost Masterclass, our latest weekly series, we deal with precisely these aspects that make sport a far more fascinating act than we know.
If you need an example of an athlete who takes up the sport early on and just flies with him, Aditi Ashok would be a great choice. She started golf as a hobby at the age of five and a half and soon took part in the Junior Tour, South Zone Tour, National Tour and International Tour. The girl from Bengaluru has made several "firsts" in her career and is all 22 years old.
Her "firsts" were partly due to their relentless ambition and partly to the lack of growth in the sport in India. She has carried the flag in a sport that is considered by most to be expensive and difficult to bring to the grassroots. The lack of progress in women's golf in India has made her a lonely journey. She has taken the tricolor from amateur to professional. Ashok is the only Indian on the LPGA Tour to be the first to win the Indian Open on the Ladies European Tour and to be the first to play in the Youth Olympics, Youth Asian Games, Asian Games and the Olympic Games. In 2016 she was the youngest female golfer in Rio de Janeiro.
In the Firstpost Masterclass, Aditi Ashok talks about her journey, the challenges of being a female golfer in India, the basics of golf from a mental, physical and dietary point of view, before acknowledging that she hopes her career will lead to a revolution for women golfing in the country.
How did you get into golf and how did it pick up speed?
I started with my mother and father when I was five and a half. Neither of us have played before. We probably started out doing something together as a family, just as a weekend activity, but I really enjoyed the first year I was on the golf course. I think the first thing they gave me was a putter. That's the first thing I learned about the game. And I enjoyed it very much. So I kept wanting to go back to learn how to play all of the sport.
But why golf? It's not that popular sport. At that time there were only three golf courses.
Yes, there were only three golf courses in Bangalore at the time. I think it was just lucky my parents and we all decided to go to a golf course. Maybe it was just my fate or fate whatever you call it. But yeah, I agree, it wasn't popular, I was mostly the only kid who played golf in school and for a long time I was the only girl who played golf in most other things too. So it's not that I could go to a golf course and meet other kids my age, or that junior girls were hard to come by. It was definitely not a popular sport, but it was interesting enough for me that whether or not I had a company wasn't really that affect me. It's kind of an individual sport anyway. I mean, you're always alone while you're playing, so this role suited me and I think that's why I moved on.
In 2017 you said the mindset has to change for women's golf to emerge in India. What do you think now?
It's still the same because there are two fights for women golfers from India. One of them is that sport is never considered a career in India. Perhaps now nobody but cricket really views sport as a means of making a living or playing and becoming a professional athlete. So this way of thinking has to change from the bottom up. It's like a ingrained thought that has to change and people need to know that you can play sports and make it your job too.
The second struggle is with mindset (to differentiate between boys and girls). Boys have more and more opportunities to exercise, exercise, they are more encouraged. For women in India, in general, attitudes towards what girls can grow up to need to change, not only to play sports but also to work and study. t only in the cities, but also at the grassroots level, at the village level, they need to ensure that a woman's place is not just in the house.
How do you see the suspension in retrospect? I mean, you had time to rest, spend time with your family, but there wasn't a lot of golf or not at all.
Mentally it was a breather and I don't think I've been home that long for six or seven months, maybe since I was 11 or 12 years old. I had to stay home, do different things, relax, read, watch movies, all of which were fun. But perhaps a minor downside is that golf courses have been closed for almost two and a half months, which is unusual compared to the rest of the world because golf is socially distant. You can go practice, play on the court without actually making contact with anyone.
I think as a precaution we closed all golf courses for two and a half months, which was unfortunate as all of my colleagues, other professional golfing friends I compete with, have not changed anything for them despite the closure. They practiced every day, played every day, and went to the gym every day. While from March, April, almost May everything suddenly had to be at home for me. So I had to do anything restrictive at home for three months.
Maybe the golf courses didn't open until mid-June. And even then, it opened just before Bangalore had another lock. So it was closed for another eight days. As a person, it was great to relax for a while, relax and do nothing, especially since I travel a lot. But when I think about being a professional golfer, I keep thinking about how many hours of training everyone else has had and maybe I missed it because you can't play golf in your house. You may be able to train at home, but you can't get the feeling that you are playing on the court at home.
You uploaded a video to Instagram while playing on the rooftop. How did this idea come about? And what did you focus on?
The main goal was to only get reps because I think I do an average of at least 100 strokes every day other than playing on the court, short strokes or the chips. I couldn't do chips or putt, but at least I could hit a hundred hits or more on my patio every day. It wasn't an ideal setup. I hit the curtains and used a floor mat or two to get enough support under the ball. It was just to ensure muscle memory so I wouldn't be idle for three months. I beat two to three hours every day.
How do you prepare for a tournament?
Most tournaments run Thursday through Sunday, so you can get there either Sunday evening or Monday morning depending on where you came from from the previous tournament or whether you are leaving from home. Monday and Tuesday are training days, so they are usually practice rounds. I sometimes play two rounds or nine (holes) a day, depending on whether I've played this course before. Wednesday is usually a Pro-Am (Pro-Amateur) played with sponsors, their guests. It is different every week: sometimes nine holes, sometimes all 18. rmally you cannot practice on the course that day. And at least two training sessions between Monday and Wednesday. t difficult training, but just enough because you can't do much between Thursday and Sunday. So two training sessions and then practice, we'll start until Thursday.
Let's talk about the equipment. How do you choose your clubs and how do you vary them from golfer to golfer?
It has to do with your swing speed. Depending on how fast you swing the club, they have the weights and lengths for the shaft and the club head. It's usually like an adjustment process, at least when I was growing up we didn't have many of these options. Of course, technology has come a long way now. Children can get fit in India now too, but when I was younger I just had to play with whatever I got. I didn't get fit until I was 16, 17 or 18 years old.
When fitted they usually check your height, length of your arms, how fast you can swing, and then the company will tell you which clubs to play. If you are really technical there are different brands you can study and try. You can play different configurations, different waves, different lengths, different weights in your head. If you want to think about it, there is a lot to think about and learn, and to tinker with equipment. I'm not really one for that. But yes, customizing is usually the best way to choose all of your gear.
What makes a good golfer in general?
Golf is a more mental sport than most other sports. Being physically fit and having no injuries is, of course, one thing because you travel 25 to 30 weeks a year. You are fit to work at a high level, but you also do so to make sure you can keep up the number of trips you make each year. That's on the physical side. Sport is usually over in an hour or two, and golf lasts at least five hours and four days in a row.
Once you start the tournament, it's really about being in control of your mind as you can't spend four days thinking about your game. You need to be able to turn yourself off and on, and even during the round, you can't spend five hours thinking about the game. You only think about the game when it is your turn to hit and when you go you should be able to shut your mind off and not think about the next or previous shot you hit. It's more about being patient and staying in the present, which some people naturally are. But I think in golf you have to learn how to be like when you play the game.
A big emphasis is on the patience that is required. Is there more to the mental aspect?
Patience is one of the most important things because it takes so long and you play 72 holes, play four days, aren't really affected by the results, or you can't always expect results. It takes a long time to build a good tournament. You can't just do it in a hole or two. And if you do well on a hole or two you can't sit on it because there are 144 girls and after two days there is a cut. Everyone has so much golf to play.
It's just about keeping the bigger picture in mind. Patience is definitely one. But I think another thing that is not visible on TV when watching TV is that you don't really get to think much. It's fun because you have to figure out where to hit and which clubs to use, what the wind is, what the mileage is, and what shot to hit to get that mileage. But after all that, when you are actually on the ball, you can't think of any of it. Then you should just be in run mode.
It is not a sport where the ball is thrown at you or hit you and you hit it back. It's not reactionary, you decide when to go to the ball. And when you stand and stand up and then literally start the swing before you hit the ball. In between all of this, the mind is like a funny thing. It can bring thoughts whenever it is, just being in control of it and not having thoughts while doing it is a big part of it.
How can you relax at the end of a round or do you stay in zones for the four days?
After the round, I usually practice a little based on what I did that day or what I want to work on the next day. As soon as I go to the hotel or room, I don't think about it much anymore. I mean, of course I could think about the next round and the next day, but it's not like discussing it. I don't really think about it. I don't like to do a lot during the tournament. On Monday I might go to a different place to eat or do something else, but during the tournament, I'm not the one to explore the city or do sightseeing or eat in a place far away. I just do whatever I have to do to be able to rest and relax and that's it.
How important is the nutritional factor for a golfer and does it differ from the tournaments between the tournaments and the off-season?
I haven't been very specific about this since childhood. There were just basic rules: no junk food, no sugar, no soft drinks. w, of course, I'm vegan and I've been for three years. It (diet) is really important the day you play as six hours (five hours of play and an hour of warm up) is a lot to cut into every meal. I mean, there's barely six hours between breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you never get a time that suits your mealtime. So it is very important to be able to substitute breakfast, lunch or dinner while playing as you will always run and swing so that you cannot have a sandwich or a proper meal while playing.
You have to find out what works for you. At the same time, you have to eat something that does not take a lot of energy to digest. I mean, it should give you energy, but it shouldn't take a lot of energy, you shouldn't get tired of having eaten a lot while playing. For me, diet is the most important (aspect) of the day of the game to ensure that I am not hungry. Sometimes I played without food because I only ate fruits, bananas, apples and all that, but it works for four days, for six hours.
At the end of the round, you ate six hours ago which will help you now. If you haven't eaten, you mentally deteriorate and lose focus. Doing that with travel for 8-10 weeks or 20 weeks a year is also difficult. For me, it's more important at the venue just to make sure I don't run out of energy.
Play the game yourself. Do you feel like your putting is affecting your mood for your next tee shot, or do you start each hole over?
The idea, of course, is to start over with each hole. Sometimes you get annoyed about what just happened while putting because that's where the score is decided. Pretty much exactly that, apart from the score on each hole and it's close to your next tee shot so yes it does affect sometimes but it's more important to let it affect your thoughts, emotions and then the next Hole to get over it. It is the same in all aspects, whether from the previous hole to the next hole or from the previous stroke to the next stroke or even from the previous tournament to the next tournament. You can't really carry luggage mentally.
How do you make sure it doesn't happen?
Statistically, everyone has to hit a bad shot at some point. Even if you averaged 72 shots that hit you in one round, you might only get five to ten, if it's a really good day, 10 really good shots. Everything else will not be perfect. And you can't change this perfection. It's more to know, I try to do this and sometimes you have mistakes and you just can do the bad shots more than trying to hit good shots. You will miss many things; Whether it's hitting a fairway or missing a green or putt, there are bound to be some that you will miss. So it's more about knowing this, accepting it and moving on than getting upset about it happening. It has to happen, especially if you play 30 times a year. You can't be perfect every week, every day.
When preparing for a shot, do you pick a target to start with? How do you set a goal on a long golf course?
It depends on what exactly is around the fairways – whether there is a bunker, water hazard to the left or right, and whether the wind is also pushing it towards this problem or whether the wind does not help or if it does not push it towards the problems . You have to take all of this into account. Sometimes you realize, "I'm going to reach the water hazard," so you choose a club that doesn't reach this mileage. You choose your strategy and based on that you choose your target and I think the same thing to hit the green.
Sometimes you get a mileage that isn't exact tour clubs, like most gaps that are 10 meters apart. Sometimes you get a shot that goes 120 (yards) but the fly is at 115. Maybe there is water just before the flag or there is something to work around. All of these make a difference when choosing a destination. Sometimes you don't really play with the flag because it's too close to the danger, or too close to the edge of what might be a bunker or water. Sometimes you play your round so well, there are few pars under and you try to close them, or you are in a good position on the field, you are in the top 5 or top 3, or you are leading and you have to do not try much to make your goals change.
Similarly, if you have the same score as the cut on Friday, that is, after two days, taking a shot or two, you need a birdie or two to play the weekend. This time your goals are different. Maybe you wouldn't fly the flag another day with a different situation because you need it for the next day. You need your best score if you wouldn't even play the next day.
Goals are really different. So many things affect it: the weather conditions, how you feel, how you play, your position in the tournament, the degree of difficulty of the golf course. For me personally, some courses that I have played for so long that I know my strengths and weaknesses. I know most players could actually do well on this hole and try to be aggressive. But with my stats I know that if it's a long distance, if I only par four days in a row, that's enough for me for four days in this hole because I don't want to drop a shot. That also changes my game plan and my approach to this hole.
Let's rewind a little to the first swing. What is the checklist?
I mainly think of knowing what the hole is asking for. You need to be on a specific side so that you can look at the flag more directly. So you need to know what the hole is asking when you need to be right, left, center. When you need a short or a longer club. So just plan the entire course management. And second, for information, you obviously need to know the distance to traps, whether they are bunkers or water hazards, and know the wind direction and strength. If it gets inside you or if it helps, from right to left, from left to right, you need to know all of this before you hit.
How important is the follow-through part of the swing? A lot goes into positioning and contact. But what about the follow-through?
Much depends on which shot you want to hit. So if you bend the ball from right to left, it is called a tie. And when you go from left to right, it's called a fade. Once you figure out which shot to hit, you can take the swing as the follow-through is directly related to what you did during your downswing.
If you want to get a tie on your follow-through, swing your way in and out. And for a dissolve, it's the opposite. So most of it is just knowing which shape you want to hit, and therefore swinging in that shape. And another thing about follow-through, of course, is that early on when you're playing golf, you're really excited to see what happens to the shot. And you will grow out of it as you become a better golfer, but still in tournament situations where the result really matters is that you outdo yourself and possibly be more eager to swing. And that's important to stay in check and not make a hasty or hasty swing. Just don't be anxious to see the outcome before actually doing what you're supposed to be doing on the ball.
If anyone asked me what the best part of professional golf is, I would say: playing these world class golf courses, a new one every week.
How do you feel when you play on a new course? Do you see that as a challenge? Do you see it with excitement? And how do you prepare for it?
I am always very excited. The fact that there is a different course every week makes it the most interesting for me. I don't know if I would be able to play a sport where you walked to the same court or field or length of field every week, whether it was a different sport. But for golf you see a new course every week. Actually every day is different because the weather, the conditions, the grass are never the same. Playing a new course every week is always exciting. If anyone asked me what the best part of professional golf is, I would say: playing these world class golf courses, a new one every week.
In terms of preparation, this is becoming more and more difficult across the field, and not just for me. body has been there before. body knows the tendencies of which holes are easy, which are difficult, where you are aggressive, where you are not aggressive. And I think that's what makes the majors so difficult. With the exception of two majors, they attend different courses each year. That is definitely a challenge. It takes more effort. I may have to play two rounds on Monday and Tuesday and maybe Wednesday to play as much on the golf course as possible. So it's harder during the week, but it's also more fun because, in a way, nobody has an advantage.
Like a player who has been touring for 15 or 10 years, they've seen the course 10 years in a row, but you've only seen it once or twice. ne of this is there when you go to a new venue. Everyone sees it the same way for the first time.
You named St. Andrews as your favorite course. What do you really like about this course?
I think this is one of the oldest golf courses and it has so much history that it has hosted so many major championships. It's such a simple layout, it's a & # 39; U & # 39; so you go and come back in the same place. So you play the first nine holes and then you come back 10-18 right back from what you ran out. It's not long, it's nothing spectacular, but how tough it can be with the weather conditions and the dangers like the bunkers. And it's a links course that's only available in the UK. You can't experience that in India or any other part of the world. The Links are basically a nickname because the land between the ocean and the capital is called Links. So it's like the land that connects the sea, and that's where the golf course was built. It's not that long compared to other courses but I think the nature of this course and the history of the championships and tradition there made it one of my favorites.
I got the chance to actually play an amateur tournament, the only amateur tournament for women in St. Andrews, and I won. For me as an Indian, it was a great experience to be able to play this tournament and have my name on the trophy where many greats have won in the past. t many people can say they won a tournament in St. Andrews. So I'm lucky.
What is the role of a good caddy for you? And what are you looking for in one?
I think the main thing is just to get along with the person. Because you see that person six, seven hours a day, every day, 30 weeks a year. This is pretty much the one for a professional golfer, I think they see caddies more often than their parents or husbands or boyfriends or girlfriends. They are able to get along with this person and they get along with you.
On a professional level, I think they are really specific and can get all the information whether it is the wind, the calculations or advice because they will see you hit all of your shots. I mean you hit so you would know but they see you play for so long. You can somehow know what your clubs have done and how far they have gone so they can give you advice the next time you have similar mileage or find yourself in a similar situation.
Especially in four day tournaments where at the end of the day you focus on getting a score, trying to win, getting into the top 5 or top 10, judgment can be tarnished because you are so focused on that Result. Similarly, as the year progresses, players are so focused on getting good results and winning tournaments. It's good to have an objective caddy that can just give you advice or help you make a decision based only on what it is and not carried away.
Of course, players think that everyone is invincible and sometimes you think you can do anything. But there are times in golf when you can't take in more than you can chew. You just have to be smart and play it safe. This is also where a caddy comes in to help you make those decisions.
Of course, carrying your heavy blue bag and practicing for four days in a row isn't easy. Six days a week with a 20-kilo sack on some hilly stretches. First and foremost, this is a physically demanding task.
Your father was your caddy in many tournaments. How do you keep that relationship on the golf course apart from the personal relationship?
He was around me when I was playing golf at a young age. It kind of happened on its own. Like I'm not saying you're caddling for me at this LPGA or LET event. w we realize that we need to be more professional. I think it's just been like that over the years. Maybe the way we had conversations back then when I was 10 or 12 years old was very different than it is now. And he also saw me grow up, play golf and become a professional so that he knows my game and what I can and cannot do. So it's not that difficult now, and I think after seeing your child become a golfer for so long as a parent, get used to seeing them as a player rather than your kids. I would think so.
Do you think the sport is "regionalized"? American golfers are in the spotlight when it comes to men. And Southeast Asians for the women?
With the men, they have so many golf courses, so many opportunities, so much access to infrastructure and facilities. And it's common for people to play golf in the UK and US. It definitely did, especially if you look at men's golf. 70-80 percent of the top 10 players are always Americans.
But I think Americans were on the women's side and have been there for many years, but I think over the past 10-15 years a lot of Southeast Asians, mostly Koreans, have taken positions on the women's golf tour, especially the LPGA.
I think Americans and Koreans are the two main nationalities. Koreas Se Ri Pak gewann 1998 die US Open und das änderte etwas. Es war wie eine Chance für junge Mädchen in Südkorea, etwas zu tun, wenn ein anderes Mädchen es könnte. Und alle haben angefangen, Golf zu spielen, und die Infrastruktur und Systeme wurden so gut, dass sie jedes Jahr mindestens 100 gute Golfer hervorbringen. Nicht professionell, aber Amateure, die sich für Pro-Touren qualifizieren können und diese Zahlen sind ein so kleines Land und haben im Vergleich zu Amerika weniger Landressourcen, aber immer noch die Systeme, um dies zu erreichen, haben sie zu einem Kraftpaket gemacht.
Von den 144 Spielern ist es mittlerweile üblich, dass jede andere Gruppe mindestens einen Koreaner hat. Ich denke, kulturell gesehen sind Frauen auch in Südostasien die arbeitenden Menschen in diesen Familien, den matriarchalischen Gesellschaften. Das ist also ein weiterer wichtiger Punkt, an dem viel mehr Mädchen Golf spielen und Geld verdienen können.
Stellen Sie sich vor, Sie tragen diesen Mantel auch für Indien, so wie es in Korea passiert ist? Ein großer Gewinn und dann die Anzahl der Frauen, die Einrichtungen, alles ändert sich. Träumst du davon?
Ich mache! Es wäre ein wahr gewordener Traum, ihn in einem Land wie Indien zu verwirklichen, aber wenn ich nur die Einrichtungen sehe, weiß ich nicht, wie viele Einrichtungen wir haben und wie viel mehr wir machen können. Städte werden immer größer und Golfplätze können in den Städten nicht mehr wirklich gebaut werden. Und es ist eine schwierige Sache, besonders in einem Land wie Indien, wo Golf nicht die erste Wahl ist, weil es ein so teurer Sport ist. Ich glaube nicht, dass man sich Korea ansehen und versuchen kann, dasselbe in Indien zu tun.
Zuerst müssen wir sicherstellen, dass Mädchen die Möglichkeit bekommen, Sport zu treiben. Mädchen bekommen die Chance, zur Schule zu gehen. Es sind viel mehr Probleme. An der Basis gibt es viel mehr Probleme, die in Indien gelöst werden müssen. Ich träume davon, ein Turnier zu gewinnen und dies zu erreichen, aber natürlich muss noch viel mehr getan werden, bevor wir dann sagen können, dass wir wie Korea 50 Profis auf LPGA haben. Es wird eine Weile dauern, diese Systeme zu bekommen und die Föderation und alle dazu zu bringen, Dinge zu tun.
Im Vergleich zu meinem 17. Lebensjahr, als ich mich für die Europatour qualifiziert habe, sehe ich jetzt fünf Indianer auf der Europatour, die alle versuchen, sich für LPGA zu qualifizieren, und jedes Jahr versuchen mehr Indianer, das Qualifying zu spielen. Im Gegensatz zu dem einzigen, der dort ist, gibt es bereits ein paar weitere Versuche, was ein gutes Zeichen ist. Aber Talente zu fördern und neue Mädchen zu gründen (ist wichtig). Sie können nicht einfach die wenigen nehmen, die Sie haben, und versuchen, sie alle gut zu machen. Du brauchst Zahlen. Sie brauchen Tausende, um es zu versuchen, und dann Hunderte, um es ernst zu nehmen. Und dann könnten 10 dieser hundert Weltklasse werden. Zahlen sind also das, was wir in Indien brauchen.
Wenn Sie auf Ihre eher junge Karriere zurückblicken, gab es einige großartige Siege und Momente, aber was schätzen Sie wirklich?
Ich denke, es würde die Indian Open gewinnen. Ich habe dieses Turnier gespielt, als ich 13 Jahre alt war, und das war die einzige Möglichkeit für indische Mädchen, europäische Tour-Spielerinnen zu sehen. Die ganze Zeit, als ich es von 13 bis 18 spielte, hatte ich noch nie einen indischen Gewinner gesehen. Jedes Jahr kommen all diese ausländischen Spieler in Ihr Land und spielen, und Sie haben nie das Gefühl, dass indische Mädchen tatsächlich gewinnen können, weil sie noch nie zuvor gewonnen haben.
Und Sie fragen sich, ob es überhaupt möglich ist. Es ist nicht wie bei Mädchen in Amerika oder Korea, die Schritte aus ihrem Land machen müssen. Es war 10 Jahre lang in Indien passiert und um der erste indische Gewinner zu sein, zumindest wenn nicht für mich, weiß ich, dass jeder andere 13-Jährige, der als Amateur auftaucht und abschlägt, einen anderen indischen Namen auf der Trophäe sehen wird und sie denken okay, es ist möglich, dass sie gewinnen. Ich sage das jetzt, aber als ich 18 war, als ich gewann, habe ich nicht wirklich daran gedacht. Ich war nur ein Neuling auf einer Europatour und ich habe ein Turnier gewonnen und war glücklich. Aber jetzt denke ich, dass der Effekt, den es haben könnte, sehr groß ist, weil Sie sehen, dass Inder nicht nur eine Nummer auf dem Feld oder nicht nur ein Teilnehmer sind, sondern sie können gewinnen, und dann habe ich zwei weitere Turniere auf der Europatour gewonnen. So that's probably one of the important moments and also getting to play at the Olympics, representing India was pretty good, too, because golf was never part of the Olympics and having that opportunity being the only Indian girl to do it. And being the youngest golf Olympian was also a
If you had to send a message to a young girl coming up, playing golf or wishing to play golf, what would you tell them?
I would say work hard and have fun. Without having fun, you wouldn't want to go to the golf course every day. If it's not fun and therefore you won't be productive. Enjoy the game first and then work hard and always try and push yourself. In India there has never been enough competition, has never seen many golfers so you always have to push yourself. When I was 12, I played with U-18 girls on my own. I didn't want to play in U-13, I wanted to push myself. Similarly, when I was 13, I played in professional tournaments in India, I played in the European tour events when I was 17. I qualified for the LPGA event. I made efforts to play like the British amateurs, British Junior etc. Push yourself and elevate your level of competition. Never be happy with what you have and always try and push yourself to the bigger stages, to get better.
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