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    Syed Saqib Ahmed Age: 21 | Home turf: KGA

    Introduced to the game by his
    father, Syed Saqib Ahmed says he
    was glued to watching the sport,
    long before he actually picked up a
    club. “I used to sit up watching golf all06BV43
    night since the age of five and
    that was the time Tiger
    Woods was peaking in his
    game,” claims Ahmed.
    “Some of my best
    memories were
    watching him win
    tournaments and
    that really inspired
    me to take up the
    sport because I
    wanted to turn pro
    myself and win tournaments,”
    he starts,
    elaborating that he eventually
    began to play the
    sport when he was seven,
    before his first event at eight. “My first
    win was when I was nine and ever
    since then, I’ve had the opportunity to
    play all over India and also had the
    privilege of representing India in
    countries like Dubai, Australia,
    Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand,
    Malaysia, Philippines, China and Sri
    Lanka,” he tells us. Apart from that, he
    credits the game with teaching him a
    lesson everyday. “Golf has taught
    me to be honest. You count
    your own score and admit
    your mistake to the referee
    if you make one. The
    beauty of the game is
    that if you cheat, it’s no
    fun,” Ahmed says.
    Counting patience
    and positivity among
    other lessons he’s
    learned, the 21-year-old
    says everything about
    the game is worth falling
    in love with. “People spend
    millions to feel the adrenaline
    rush I feel every time I play a
    round of golf,” he tells us. Turning pro
    in January, his first victory came in
    Ooty when he won by one. Giving up a
    ‘normal teenage life’ though has been
    one of Ahmed’s life challenges.

    Off
    course
    Golfing greats: Tiger Woods
    and my father. He is a keen golfer
    and every time I play with him, I
    always learn something new
    Happiest playing in: My Superman
    underwear
    Dream course: St Andrews.
    And I’m getting to play
    there soon!

    ONCE regarded as a game dominated by North
    India and retired folk, golf is fast changing that belief, and
    is turning into the fastest growing sport in the country, with
    Bengaluru leading the parade. Former KGA president and
    director at Touche Golf Sports, Dr Rohit Shetty echoes
    those sentiments. “The home of golf was Calcutta. But
    unfortunately as many people do, the golfers too left the city
    in pursuit of better things. Then Chandigarh became the
    capital. But it started being considered an elitist game
    there. People who excelled went abroad on scholarships,
    and dropped the sport once there. It is tough, so there was
    no one to follow through back home,” explains Shetty.
    Agreeing, Karnataka Golf Association’s Hon. Secretary,
    Sandeep Madhavan R, explains that the spotlight now is
    indeed on Bengaluru. Madhavan feels the city brought the
    sport from elites to the masses by opening up their facilities
    to to the game, without needing parents to be members of
    the club. “If a child has a valid school or college ID, I will
    give them instant access to the course and driving range for
    just `3,000,” shares Madhavan, elaborating that currently, a
    whopping 15 pro golfers and over 50 amateurs represent the
    South on the circuit. What has also driven the city to the top
    spot is a burst of ‘new-age parents’, as Shetty calls them,
    encouraging kids to take up the sport. “South Indians were
    more education oriented. That has changed and now
    they’ve opened up to other possibilities. Being a sports person
    is now acceptable,” affirms Madhavan. Just last month,
    home girl, Aditi Ashok won the prestigious St Rule Trophy
    at St Andrews Links becoming the only Asian to do so. With
    focus shifting away from cricket, players are being given
    sponsorship (not nearly enough) and prize money has made
    golf a viable career. We catch up with the city’s Woods and
    Annika Sörenstam in the making.

    Just a month away from
    his 23rd birthday, and
    Khalin Joshi struts on
    the course like he’s
    been there forever. And really,
    he has. Following his uncle
    Rajesh Joshi around on the
    grounds of KGA since he was
    hardly three, Khalin then
    took up golf when he was just
    four years old. “My uncle was
    my inspiration and my reason
    to love the game of golf,”
    says the youngster, who started
    by playing club tournaments
    then played the Indian
    Golf Union junior and subjunior
    tournaments across
    the country. Soon he turned
    amateur and represented
    India in tournaments outside
    the country. He turned professional
    three years ago, and
    currently holds the third spot
    of the Rolex Ranking for
    Professional Golf of India.
    Khalin tells us that a round
    is going well for him, if the
    people playing with him are
    good. “For me, who I am playing
    with matters a lot and that
    helps me to play a good
    round,” he tells us. Not a big
    fan of the driving range, he’d
    rather go out and play a full
    round. “I try and spend a fair
    bit of time on my short game.
    Warming up before the start
    of every day is a must, ” shares
    the winner of the Ahmedabad
    Masters, earlier this year.
    Tackling a tournament day
    and a practice session in the
    same way, Khalin aims to
    keep his cool no matter what.
    “I’ve realised over a period of
    time that a practice round
    and a tournament should be
    treated in a similar manner. I
    try and get the same feeling
    during a tournament week
    which helps me to perform at
    ease,” he says.

    Starting young
    KGA: Apart from membership
    (`3,000), this club offers a Junior
    Golf programme which lasts a
    month, with hour-long sessions on
    weekends. Details: kga.in
    Touche: Headed by coach
    Bamby Randhawa, this one will
    teach technique as well as
    integrity and sportsmanship.
    Details: touchegolf.com
    Bengaluru Golf Club:
    The Junior Golf Program is open to
    members and guests. Sessions are
    conducted on weekends and
    include long game, specialty shots,
    recovery play and mental skills.
    Details: bgc1876.com
    Prestige Golfshire:
    The luxury course offers coaching
    in technique, course management
    and offer video analysis and game
    plans to target specific weaknesses.
    Details: golfshire.com

    Sharmila Nicollet Age: 24 years | Home turf: Karnataka G

    INDIA’S jewel when it
    comes to women golfers,
    Sharmila Nicollet is the
    highest ranked professional
    in the country. The 24-yearold
    began playing when she was
    11 and joined the American
    Junior Golf Association camp
    at the Karnataka Golf
    Association ‘for fun’. Training
    five times a week for over six
    hours each day, the Indo-French
    lass says her talent for the game
    was evident very early on
    apparently. “It’s an individual
    sport. You play against yourself
    and the course. I also love
    nature and being able to play
    and practice around it is amazing.
    It is with some hardwork I
    have reached here,” says the
    self-proclaimed geek, who
    hopes to some day win the prestigious
    Evian Masters.
    Her most treasured lesson on
    the golf course is that it teaches
    humility. The Tiger Woods fan
    tells us that while she has no
    real pre-tournament routine,
    she is tournament ready everyday.
    “My daily routine gets me
    ready for competition. That’s
    the way I design my practice
    schedules. A good mix of high
    and low intensity practice does
    the trick,” she says. Nicollet
    approaches a new course by
    studying it and by playing multiple
    practice rounds, taking
    notes and making a strategic
    plan for the week. “The most
    consistent part of golf is its
    inconsistency! The challenge
    for me is to accept that fact and
    focus on how I can get better
    each day,” Nicollet shares.

    Aditi Ashok Age:
    17 years | Home Turf: Bengaluru Golf Club

    The youngest and perhaps the
    brightest star at the moment,
    Aditi Ashok is a a real multitasker,
    what with coaching, tournaments
    and the dreaded final exams always looming
    over her head. But a focused young
    thing despite her few years, Ashok’s love
    affair with the sport began when she was
    just five and a half years old. “My journey
    started when my parents and I walked into
    the golf club for the first time. I instantly
    fell in love with the game and wouldn’t
    leave the putting green for the next two
    hours,” she begins, adding that having
    taken to golf at a young age, she enjoyed
    playing it competitively and started winning
    tournaments, even going on to represent
    team India since the age of 12.
    “I like the fact that golf is an individual
    sport and that it teaches you a lot in life like
    honesty, patience, focus and etiquette,” she
    says, recalling her first win when she was
    just nine. “It was the All India Ladies
    Amateur in Eagleton. I played in the
    Bronze category (24-36 handicap) and it
    was my first national win. I wanted to
    make it a habit,” Ashok recounts, and she
    certainly has followed through on that.
    Coaching with Steven Giuliano,
    Malaysia and working on strength and
    conditioning with Nicolas Cabaret,
    France, Ashok is the only Indian golfer
    (male or female) to have played the Asian
    Youth Games, Youth Olympic Games and
    Asian Games. She is also the first Indian
    and only Asian to win the St Rule Trophy
    in 2015 at St Andrews Links – a major victory
    in her many accolades. But not one to
    get carried away with medals, the grounded
    girl says a good start helps keep her
    calm. Plus, time management, a lesson the
    India Ladies Number One says she learned
    from the sport.
    Pics: Vinod Kumar T
    Location: Karnataka Golf Association

    Anisha Padukone Age: 24 years |
    Home turf: Eagleton Golf Resort
    WITH Prakash Padukone for a father and Deepika Padukone for
    a sister, you’d think that Anisha Padukone would have to play catch up. But the
    sassy 24-year-old went and carved a niche on the course, and started
    playing golf when she was 12. “I started playing golf because my father had to
    put in a few scorecards in order to get membership at KGA. He asked me to
    come along one day to see if I enjoyed it. I was hooked right away,” she begins,
    adding that she now lives at The Eagleton Golf Resort, and trains weekdays
    with coach Vijay Divecha. Choosing golf because everyday a new lesson can be
    learned, Anisha is of the opinion that apart from hot days and tedious courses,
    consistency is the toughest part in golf. “You could be playing so well one day
    that you feel you can compete with the best in the world and the next day you
    may feel like quitting the sport! Nothing is certain in golf,” says the amateur
    player. While she knows that competition is important, Anisha believes she
    plays her best when she’s trying to enjoy. “You have to take it one moment
    at a time and enjoy the process more than anything. That’s what we practice
    for, to try and be as consistent as possible as the variable factors
    are very high. You cant predict weather conditions, the course layout,
    where your ball will end up lying,” she tells us, adding that in
    retrospect she feels like she hasn’t achieved her potential. “I
    have a long way to go and I know that the best has not happened
    yet. I am capable of much more and that is
    what I’m working towards,” she signs off.

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