The season had only just begun for Aditi Ashok before things came to a grinding halt.
The Indian golfer had played in two tournaments each in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the Ladies European Tour (LET) .
While she did not have the best start at the LPGA events in Florida and Australia, failing to make the cut, she finished T-24 at the Ladies Classic at Bonville and recorded a top-ten (T-4) finish at the New South Wales Open, both LET events.
This has been a feature throughout her career. “I’m the kind of golfer that thrives on momentum,” she explained in a chat with the Olympic Channel. “The two LPGA events were my first after the off-season, so I was not playing as well as I would have mid-season.
“A mixture of that and the fact that I got a bit of bad weather in Florida, because of the thunderstorm, added to the performance there. In Australia, I did not do too badly but for a couple of shots, but that’s all you need to falter in the LPGA.”
So, did the break come at the wrong time for her? “Not really, there is no right time for things that you cannot control. I’d have loved the momentum from March to May, we play seven tournaments in eight weeks, but then the world is dealing with much bigger things now,” she pointed out.
For now, she is at home in Bengaluru and restricted to swinging her golf club on the terrace. A single folded bed sheet hung across ensures that the golf balls don't make their way to her neighbours.
The Rio 2016 experience
She may be only 22 years old, but Aditi Ashok has already been to the Olympics, at Rio 2016, and even led the second round for a brief while.
The feat was made even more impressive by the fact that she had turned pro only six months earlier and helped bring the attention of the nation to her and the sport in general.
“I read somewhere that the Google searches for golf from India were huge after that. Just seeing the impact it had and the exposure it got at the time was a big deal for me,” the Indian golfer said, with a tinge of obvious pride in her voice.
The Olympic experience was also different for Aditi Ashok in terms of staying at a Games village with Indian athletes from other disciplines and with golf being an individual sport, it was new to her to be part of a team.
“The grandeur of it all is something that you can soak in only when you are there. You can read about it but just being there and mingling with people who are from other sports made it great,” she recalled.
“I did well in the first two days but obviously did not end well, which was again down to the fact that I had only played five or six tournaments before going to Rio, so I could not sustain it.”
While Rio was a memorable outing, Aditi Ashok hit her stride in the events following the 2016 Olympics, earning her LPGA card and winning the Indian Open later in the year, making her the first Indian woman to do so.
“It was always my goal, right from my amateur days, to win the Indian Open and the fact that it was my first LET win made it very special,” revealed the Indian golfer, who collects lapel pins as a hobby.
Aditi Ashok followed it up by winning the Qatar Open a week later and then finished third at Dubai to end the season strong.
The way forward
Having entered the 2016 Olympics in only her rookie year as a pro, the Indian golfer believes that the experience she gathered in the LET and LPGA in the next four years hold her in better stead this time around.
Aditi Ashok currently sits well inside the top-60 (38th) on the International Golf Federation (IGF)’s rankings for the Tokyo Olympics, and while some may opt out of some events in the build-up to the Games, the Indian golfer is quite the contrarian.
“We don’t know when the season will resume again so you can’t really plan on how to approach things. But I will ensure that I play as many LPGA tournaments as I can until the first half of next year,” she said.
The self-aware Aditi Ashok has grown leaps and bounds in her fifth year on the professional tour. She has already fulfilled the dream of going to the Olympics once and getting as close as she can to a podium will be next on her agenda come 2021.