'I have a lot more golf in me,' says Aditi Ashok as we get a lowdown on what 2024 looks like for her

We catch up with the superstar of women’s golfing in India in an exclusive chat
In Frame: Aditi Ashok
In Frame: Aditi Ashok

As a toddler, Tiger Woods watched his dad shoot golf balls in their garage as a tactic to feed him. For Indian pro golfer Aditi Ashok, the journey from five to 25 years has bestowed her with a stoic resolve and a quietude akin to the game. Putting, swinging and birdie-ing to perfection has taken years of labouring. Men have been stumped losing to this slight girl walking purposefully on the KGA greens.

So, it’s no surprise that Aditi just ended her golfing season ranking World No 41. She won the Ladies Open 2023 season-ending tournament at the Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open, having been nine points ahead in an earlier open, winning the Kenya Open, coming second in the Saudi Ladies International and third in the Lalla Meryem Cup. What makes the Spain win precious is that, while this was her fifth win on the European tour, she had yearned to win on European soil and Andalucia gave her that.

“It was one of the strongest fields. I’ve always mulled over how as a winner of a European Tour, I’ve never won in Europe. So, finishing in the Top 5 in Spain is big. Wonderful. Happy to get over the hump,” smiles Aditi, sunburnt, freckled and dedicated. The upward swing in her game is here to stay and 2024 has her licking her lips in anticipation. We are too.

<em>Aditi Ashok</em>
Aditi Ashok

Preparations, practice, perseverance
After an inadequate 2022 filled with struggles, Aditi returned to the drawing board — hours of golf, adding fitness, strength and swing training and a coach to her tiny entourage (her parents). “I am in a completely different place compared to last year — where I was ranked 99 on the LPGA (The Ladies Professional Golf Association). Kenya and Saudi were great performances, taking that into the US, I was confident. I had five Top 10s. In my whole career, I have had maybe six. What I’ve achieved on the LPGA this year is as much if not more than the past five to six years since I started playing in 2017.” India’s first-ever medal in women’s golf at the Asian Games — a silver, she is, critical, striving for perfection, “being ahead by seven shots and not winning was a tough pill to swallow. While it was good, I played badly on the final day. I try not to focus on failures and forget the results. Golf is about what is in front of you. It’s not about the shot in 10 minutes or the past swing. It is about that minute. You’re only as good as your last result,” she pipes.

The torchbearers of her life
Ramrod straight, on the course, she is a picture of concentration, with her father steadfast, as caddy, teacher and talking two to a dozen guide. Her mother is the consummate manager. “I’ve been lucky as most parents force their kids to go to school. When I started doing well, my parents supported me, took me to tournaments, even ones where Team India wasn’t sending a team. I was a child and clueless. My dad helped me so much, caddying and guiding me. Mom — most people are unaware how dedicated she is as they only see my dad next to me. From getting into the Olympics, figuring out the criteria, ranking — how did I find a way there? I just played golf, my mom figured out the rest. I’m blessed,” gushes Aditi. Surprisingly, the Rookie of the Year in 2016 has never focused on fitness, “I didn’t habitually grow up with it. Golf was not a physical sport in that era, so I didn’t cultivate the habit,” she adds.

Pushing the limits, always
Without big names in Team Aditi, her sublime play is due to her inherent talent. “I haven’t done anything special, I focus on practice. Specific training on movements and basic cardio. I don’t want to sound self-deprecating, but it’s ordinary things — eat well, sleep nine hours if not more. I don’t eat meat or animal products. It is hard, restrictive even. I am trying to gain energy so I can practice longer,” says the vegan, who admits that travelling for six to eight months a year, she loses 2-3 kilos, so protein shakes are her go-to. On the tour, predictably, with the nerves, no food goes in except bananas!

A lapel for each game!
Her life is literally about giving 100 percent to golf. Travelling out of a suitcase, she often binges on horror-comedy or listens to Green Day and Blink 182 to unwind. “I am pretty much a homebody. Not much of a sightseer either. Maybe an occasional dinner. Travelling can play havoc,” she grins sheepishly. Waving away her achievements as stepping stones, “As a golfer, maybe one day, as world number one, I’ll feel the pressure and feel good about my wins, then maybe it’ll get to my head. Right now, I have a lot more golf in me,” she concludes.


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