TOKYO, (Aug 4, 2021): Five years ago, Aditi Ashok was a big-eyed teenager enjoying her time among the giants of the sport and the youngest participant in the women’s golf competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Fast forward to Tokyo 2020, Ashok has made it clear that she intends to put her stamp on the Kasumigaseki Country Club and challenge a historic medal for her country.
The 23-year-old Ashok shot an outstanding 4 under 67 in the first lap on Wednesday in hot and humid conditions and was thus one shot behind the leader Madelene Sagstrom from Sweden. She’s in second place with American star Nelly Korda, another shot back with three others.
“Last time I think it was more just enjoying the experience and staying in the (Olympic) village, seeing all the other athletes, but this time I definitely think here to have a happy ending, hopefully doing my best to try and win a medal. “Said Aditi. “I think once you’ve played in the Olympics, you definitely prepare better, you’re not so intimidated by it. I mean, it’s still the Olympics, it’s still very exciting, but definitely better prepared for this one. “
She would like to create new Olympic memories and has asked her mother to work as a caddy this week and take over her father, who was on the bag in Rio. While she was a greenhorn all those years ago, Aditi is now an experienced participant on the LPGA Tour and has two Ladies European Tour victories under her belt.
“My mom, she’s a caddy for me. The last time I had my dad on my back, the experience was just so incredible that next time I want to have my mom, and I kept that promise, “she said. “This time I definitely think a lot more experience, just playing the LPGA for the past five years has made you a lot better as a player than I did in Rio. And I think the Olympic experience was that I didn’t finish as well as I wanted, but just seeing how the game of golf played out in India was inspiring and that’s what motivated me to do that too, ”said Aditi, who first Indian to qualify for the LPGA Tour in 2017.
Many in-game watchers became aware of her amazing talents after she finished in the top 10 in two rounds in Rio before settling for a 41st place share. Her profile shot through the roof on the Olympic stage when she discovered her followers multiplied on social media.
“I think my followers on social media basically just exploded. I think a lot of people were trying to figure out what golf is to understand how I play and if I had a chance of a medal. I think I had around 4,500 followers on Twitter and Facebook and stuff and it went up to 14k overnight which is quite a lot. I think I was like, okay, now I have to think about what I’m tweeting before I send it out, ”she smiled.
As the mercury soared to 36 degrees Celsius that afternoon, Aditi had her game under control to the very last hole when she dropped her lone bogey to 18 after dropping birdies on holes 5, 9, 13, 14 and 17. “I think I played better than I expected because I had a lot of hybrids on the greens so I didn’t really expect to be 5 under 17 putt. It was a good day, “said Aditi.
Cricket remains India’s premier sport by far, treated as a religion by fans, but Aditi knows that a first-ever golf medal for her nation could put their sport more in the spotlight. “I never thought that the Olympic Games could have such a big impact on golf in India. So it was a good thing to know that it could bring so much more exposure to the sport. People still remembered me as the girl who did well in the Olympics. I think just knowing that was kind of motivating this week, ”she said.
“It would be huge because women’s golf is not really on the radar of the sport or the people of India, so it would be great for the game of golf, women’s golf. I think, especially as an athlete in India, we’ve never won gold and we haven’t won that many medals – obviously all the medals in this game were girls and so I think that’s a nice trend and that female athletes are good is definitely going well for a country like India. ”
Aditi’s involvement with the game began accidentally when she and her parents went to a driving range across from their favorite restaurant in their hometown of Bangalore. “We used to have breakfast in this restaurant with a view of a golf driving range and just wanted to try it out. They gave me like a baby putter and that’s how I started playing golf, ”explained Aditi.
“I enjoyed the putting, I think I was there for about three hours just to putt the greens. So that kind of started me. And then at some point learned the whole game. And I believe that as a kid I played junior tournaments with other kids my age, which I never really experienced in normal life on the course. ”