Aditi Ashok: Rio was all concerning the expertise, however I am right here in Tokyo to win a medal

Golf

Aditi Ashok, 23, won’t be a family identify or winner on the LPGA Tour fairly but. However again residence in India, she’s a top-ranked girl golfer, two-time Olympian and present second-place holder in Tokyo. In her first spherical of the ladies’s golf match on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, No. 200-ranked Ashok maintained poise and consistency just like that of No. 1-ranked Nelly Korda. After firing a four-under 67, one shot off the lead, Ashok discovered herself tied for second place with Korda heading into Thursday’s second spherical at Kasumigaseki Nation Membership.

5 years in the past, Ashok teed it up in Rio on the 2016 Summer time Olympic Video games. On the time, the one girl golfer representing India had no thought what sort of affect her presence on the Video games would have again residence in India. Flash ahead to right this moment, she is aware of that competing on the girls’s golf occasion in Tokyo means extra than simply garnering extra social media followers and socialising within the Olympic Village — it means altering the golf sport in India.

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Right here we go, once more

In 2016, the then 18-year-old Ashok shot back-to-back opening rounds of 68 on the Olympic Golf Membership in Rio. For the primary time in 112 years, golf returned to the Olympics and {the teenager} Ashok was making historical past because the youngest golfer, man or girl, in Rio.

As the one girl representing Crew India in golf, Ashok rapidly turned an in a single day sensation in her residence nation. She went on to tie for forty first in Rio.

After her first look within the Olympics, Ashok joined the LPGA Tour in 2017. This yr, Ashok returned to the Video games with new targets in thoughts. However her motivation stays the identical.

“Final time, I used to be a rookie principally,” Ashok mentioned. “I simply completed my highschool exams after which I used to be on the Olympics in two months. However this time, I believe positively much more expertise, simply taking part in on the LPGA [Tour] the final 5 years has been form of, makes you means higher as a participant than I used to be at Rio.

“I did not end in addition to I needed to final time, however simply seeing the impact that it had on golf in India was inspiring and that is form of what motivated me for this one as effectively.”

Throughout her first spherical in Tokyo on Wednesday, Ashok seemed extra assured than ever earlier than. All the things appeared to circulate. It was her second Olympics. She has been right here earlier than, however this time nonetheless felt totally different. She was now not alone, this yr joined by India’s Diksha Dagar. And this time, she wasn’t simply going on the market to play and characterize her nation. She was going on the market to medal for India.

“Final time I believe it was extra simply having fun with the expertise and staying on the village, seeing all the opposite athletes, however this time I believe positively right here to have end, hopefully give my greatest, try to win a medal. I believe having performed the Olympics as soon as positively will get you extra ready, you are not as overawed by it. I imply it is nonetheless the Olympics, it is nonetheless actually thrilling, however, yeah, positively extra ready for this one,” Ashok mentioned.

Rising the sport (and social media numbers)

Wanting again, Ashok admitted she ought to’ve identified. However in her first look on the Olympics, Ashok had no thought what sort of affect she’d have on the sport in India. As an 18-year-old, individually representing India in girls’s golf, Ashok simply went on the market and performed — and that is all it took.

“No person [in India] actually centered on girls’s golf,” Ashok mentioned. “I used to be only a rookie. I simply turned professional, so no person had many expectations of me both. positively it was shocking, and I believe in a great way as a result of I by no means thought the Olympics might affect golf that a lot in India. So realizing that it might carry that many extra eyeballs to the game was factor.”

Whereas golf would possibly’ve remained a considerably unknown sport in India, Ashok helped put it on the map even earlier than she stepped foot in Rio. In 2013, she turned the primary and solely Indian golfer to play the Asian South Video games. Then, in 2014, she turned the primary and solely Indian golfer to play the Youth Olympic Video games and Asian Video games.

“No person actually centered on girls’s golf, and I used to be only a rookie, I simply turned professional, so no person had many expectations of me both. However yeah, I, positively it was shocking, and I believe in a great way as a result of I by no means thought the Olympics might affect golf that a lot in India. So, realizing that it might carry that many extra eyeballs to the game was factor,” Ashok mentioned.

In 2016, after competing in Rio, she completed her rookie yr on the Girls European Tour (LET) with three wins and earned Rookie of the 12 months. On the 2016 Hero Ladies’s Indian Open, she turned the primary Indian girl to win a LET title.

After Rio, it wasn’t till Ashok checked out her varied social media accounts that she realised simply how massive of an affect she was making as a golfer in India.

“My social media following simply blew up,” Ashok remembered. “I believe lots of people have been making an attempt to determine what golf was, in order that they might perceive how I used to be taking part in and if I had an opportunity to win a medal. I wasn’t in India on the time, and I did not return for about one other month however even then, I believe for the following six months to a yr everyone remembered and acknowledged me from the Olympics, despite the fact that I had gained like three European Tour occasions after that, individuals nonetheless remembered me because the woman who did effectively on the Olympics. So, I believe simply realizing that the truth is that it has form of motivates me this week too.”

The very first thing she thought of when she seen the affect she was making, due to her social media numbers capturing up?

“I believe I had like 4,500 followers on Twitter and Fb, and it jumped to love 14K in a single day…I used to be like, ‘OK, now I obtained to consider what I am tweeting earlier than I ship it out.'”

In relation to rising the sport in India, and never simply her social media following, Ashok careworn the significance of her personal private {and professional} improvement within the sport. Since her first look, she may be well-known to sure individuals who keep in mind Rio. However she is aware of that she nonetheless has to exit, characterize and put herself ready to carry residence a medal if she actually desires to affect the sport.

“I believe I am just a little extra snug now than I used to be 5 years in the past. I believe you understand it is quite a lot of stuff comes with it that you simply possibly do not actually like,” Ashok mentioned. “But it surely’s necessary for little women again residence to have that picture of a golfer internationally on the LPGA or on the Olympics and never simply taking part but additionally form of contending right here and there.”

Household affair

It wasn’t that way back when Ashok was one of many little women in India searching for illustration from girls on the golf course.

It wasn’t actually deliberate, however on the age of 5, Ashok first skilled what it felt like to the touch a golf membership. Along with her father Ashok Gudlamani, who labored in actual property, and her mom, Mash, who was a radio jockey, by her facet, Ashok discovered play golf along with her household.

“Me and my dad and mom began on the similar time. We used to have breakfast at this restaurant that missed a golf driving vary and we needed to stroll in and check out it out,” Ashok recalled from her childhood. “They gave me like a child putter and that is form of how I began taking part in golf. I loved placing, I believe I used to be there for like three hours simply placing on the greens.

“That is form of what obtained me began. After which finally discovered the entire sport. And I believe as a child taking part in junior tournaments with different youngsters my age was one thing I by no means actually obtained to expertise in common life, so simply taking part in aggressive sport with youngsters my age was actually fascinating for me and that is what saved me going again to the golf course.”

Ashok mentioned she by no means felt stress from her household to play golf. At first, her dad and mom weren’t even actually positive what the game consisted of, however rapidly, they caught on identical to Ashok. Whereas possibly only a pastime for them, Ashok’s dad and mom inspired her to make a profession out of her newfound ardour for golf.

In 2016, Ashok’s father caddied for her at her Olympic debut. 5 years later, Ashok requested her mom to be on her bag.

“Final time, I had my dad on the bag, so the expertise was simply so unbelievable. I used to be like, I need to have my mother subsequent time. And I made good on that promise,” Ashok mentioned.

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