Maureen Walker who championed the early days of women’s golf in India credits its success story to three factors when she rightly says, “To my mind there are three things that bring ladies into golf. Firstly, if their parents are players, then it helps create an environment where the girl is encouraged to play. Secondly, if their friends and peers are playing, they also try their hand. And thirdly and most importantly, once the initiation is done, the “addiction” for golf takes over.”

Women are great ambassadors of golf. Within India there are some spectacular female players who passionately enjoy the sport. They don’t just like golf, they love it. Chatting as she walks between holes, a glass of wine in the clubhouse afterwards and with plenty of time for conversation and fun, golf has to be the most social sport ever invented for ladies. The sport’s unique handicap scoring system means that players of all levels can play together either socially or competitively. Women and golf make a perfect 􀂿 t irrespective of genres and age. Putting style in their swings effortlessly, women and golf surely make a winning story in India. While women golfers have been few- in that sense golf needs to be more gender fair, they are happy to beat some of their male friends on a round. But on a serious note, it is futile to think of golf as just a leisure activity for the ladies. For ladies too, it is all about networking, bonding and spending quality one-on-one time with upper management and business associates. The time spent on the course can be priceless for breaking the ice with clients. Golf is counted as a most universal sport and hence women take to it because they can play for fun or business and with hundreds of
courses all over the country, it is never too difficult to find a golf course!

Sports managers believe that what inspires them to take on the management of a person is talent rather than preconceived notions of what or who will work. This belief is intrinsic to the success of a player. With the status quotient attached to golf, more and more ladies are taking up golf. Today a young golfer has many more facilities, opportunities, to succeed in life. The outlook towards golf and sports in general has changed. Women golfers are the key factors for enabling the growth of the game as men have already reached a saturation point. Golf is now been seen as a career option and the facilities such as coaching, fitness, psychologist, ranges, golf courses available today are getting better and better. Most importantly, there is tremendous support coming in from parents that allows them to take golf forward and keep the legacy going.

The rise of women’s golf in India has a fascinating history. In the later nineteenth century the Calcutta Ladies Golf Club (CLGC) was set up by Lady Curzon. Providence had perhaps reserved the honour for the Calcutta ladies to start the 􀂿 rst club of its kind as it was the only club in the world to be run exclusively for and by women. What is more amazing is that the Club is in existence even today. For a few years, two or three ladies played on the gentlemen’s course in the morning in an unmethodical manner. A triangular piece of land was converted into a course with the regulation nine-holes. A committee member of the CGC had the pleasant task of coaching two ladies in the mysteries of the game, so that while the majority of the members of CGC were novices, the Ladies Club was fortunate to start with two experts.

The CLGC with its tough little course was established in the Calcutta Maidan with 12 members on May 7, 1891. In 1931 a wooden structure built on wheels and rails to permit easy moving, replaced the original canvas tent which had cost a grand sum of three thousand rupees. Thirty years later the tent was sold for twenty 􀂿 ve rupees! In 1953 extentions were carried out to the Club House and records show
a strength of 433 members. But the Club offered few facilities. Even drinking water had to be transported every day from RCGC situated across the maidan. It was as late as 1966 that the old petromax lanterns
gave way to electricity. Today the nine-hole course faces unique hazards in the form of man, animal and automobile.

In 1905 the 􀂿 rst All India Ladies Amateur Golf Championship was arranged by the CLGC and played over the old course of the Calcutta Golf Course. A beautiful chased Rose Bowl as a trophy was donated by C.R. Walker and to everyone’s delight, Mrs Walker walked away with the title! Only in 1918 and the world war years between1940-1950 did this tournament take a back seat. 1916 proudly celebrated hundred years of Women’s Golf and the All India Tournament. From 1969 to 1972 the Championship rotated between the CLGC, the Bombay Presidency Golf Club and the Delhi Golf Club. In 2000 it was first played in the south at the KGA in Bangalore.

The All India attracted the best Indian players. The years from World War II to the pre-independence years saw some of the Indian icons like Anjani Desai, Harji Malik and Sita Rawlley along with Tinu Fernando of Sri Lanka dominate Indian golf. 1970 was a landmark year with Anjani Desai becoming the 􀂿 rst Indian champion and was bestowed the prestigious Arjuna Award. Arjuna Awardee Sita Rawlley was the second player to win the All India in 1976, 1977 and 1978. Nonita Lall, the third lady to be conferred the Arjuna Award also left a mark with six wins. In 2009 young Gurbani Singh won the title at the record breaking age of 13 years and 3 months.

Sita Rawlley brought attention to golf in the 60s and 70s when few ladies took up the sport. Sita Rawlley and Anjani Desai are considered female golf legends in in India. They played as amateurs because there were no pro tournaments back then for women in the country. Their contribution and role in Indian golf will be embedded in history forever. Sita Rawlley was the livewire of clubs brightening up the course with her swing and smile. She would be out at the Delhi Golf Club cheering the upcoming golfers and inspiring them to play more and do more with their clubs. Her Audrey Hepburn like sunglasses, bright tees and wide smile would lift up any despondent golfer’s day. Many remember her as the woman who put Indian women’s golf on the global map. “She was my gorgeous gol􀂿 ng godmother while I grew up playing the game through junior, amateur and professional golf” remembers Sharmila Nicollet. “She was always out on the last day of most of the tournaments I played in Delhi supporting and cheering me on through every win and loss.”Kavita Singh, President of the Women’s Golf Association remembers her as having joie derivre even as a ninety old ‘young’ lady. “She was one gutsy lady, courageous and strong” Members of the Delhi Golf Club remember that on occasions she would putt even while on her wheelchair. The Arjuna Awardee celebrated her 90th birthday before she passed Rawlley personally said, “Her death marks the end of an era, an
exemplary woman who guided golfers of my generation with grace, generosity and fortitude.”

In 1982-83, youngsters like Ranjit Grewal and Kiran Kanwar became the new stars.Thereafter a new breed of youngsters Nonita Lall, Simi Mehra and Vandana Aggarwal slowly dominated the game. Within India Inc. there are some spectacular female players. Manisha Girotra of Moelis is too busy banking but she does go low on the course on a good day. A regular on the circuit is Latika Khaneja, well known for her Collage Sports Management Company. Ekta Chadha, a dentist entrepreneur has her Facebook Timeline flooded with golfing pictures and one cannot miss a very colour
coordinated Neelam Rudy picking birdies along the way.

The next generation of Irina Brar and Shruti Khanna was followed by young Sharmila Nicollette who turned professional in 2009 when she was 18 years old. She is the youngest Indian golfer to qualify for Ladies European Tour and is the second Indian to earn a full card on the Ladies European Tour. The success of the men’s circuit acted as a catalyst for professional women’s golf in the country. The formation of the Woman’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) was the brainchild of Champika Sayal, Chairperson of the IGU’s Ladies Section from 1999 to 2002. Sayal teamed up with Smriti Mehra Guf􀂿 n, India’s 􀂿 rst and only LPGA pro. The duo wanted that every talented woman golfer in the country be given an opportunity to make it big as a tour player. They received patronage from the legends, Sita Rawlley and Anjani Desai. They were also supported by Satish Tandon, the 􀂿 rst President of WGAI. The WGAI works for the upliftment of women golfers and creates a structural plan that enables women to carve out a career in golf.

In golf, you play the ball, not the opponent.

That fact makes golf one of the few viable sports where women can compete with men on somewhat of an even playing field. So, it’s not all that surprising that a few players have taken the plunge and given
PGA Tour events a try India’s Women Pro Golfers are turning into young turks for the game giving it an additional edge of the style quotient. Building upon their professional game, going overseas to play on international circuits, training on world courses and winning tournaments on the domestic tour, the young achievers are the new faces of women’s golf in India. We pro􀂿 le and present three golden girls of golf in this article with a promise to highlight others in future issues.

Gurbani Singh

Having begun a passionate love for golf from the age of six, Gurbani has never looked back since then. She made her quiet presence felt at the Junior Training Program at the Delhi Golf Club. She started playing the IGU tournaments and marked her

coming of age with a victory at the DGC Open along with a young Rashid Khan, in her age category of 11-12 years despite playing along with the boys. This was shortly followed by another victory at the Army Golf Club where she won the IGU Junior Northern India, emerging victorious competing with boys once again.
Shortly thereafter in 2008 Gurbani clinched her first Ladies Amateur title, the youngest player to ever do so at the age of 13 years and 2 months. This was just the beginning of her winning streak as a month later she became the youngest player ever to win the All India at 13 years and 3 months; a record that stands even today. Gurbani represented India at the Asia Pacific Junior Championship and was the only Indian girl to return with a trophy. She went on to achieve new milestones by representing India at the QSC in 2009 at the age of 13, again the youngest at that time to do so. She then went on to win the Evian Juniors Masters in France in 2010 and was awarded the trophy by none other than Michelle Wie. She followed this with wins at the Sri Lankan Open and the Asia Pacific Junior Championships. Gurbani has since gone on to break many records and achieve many milestones. She is the only Indian golfer to receive the Rolex Award of Excellence for golf for three years consecutively from 2009-2011. She is also the only golfer to represent India twice at the Asian Games at the young age of 14 and 18. Gurbani was the playing Captain of the First World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey and later again in Kuruizawa, Japan. She continues to be the most capped Indian Lady golfer, representing India 31 times. With her consistent golf she is a player who contributes to the team in each performance. Back home, Gurbani continued to dominate the National golf scene becoming the number one Junior Girl and then the number one in the Ladies Amateur. She has won a total of 19 national amateur and innumerable junior titles. In May 2015, she 􀂿 nally won the Northern India, the only title which had eluded her and thus completed a golfing amateur grand slam. With three National titles under her belt and a string of achievements along with her stellar academic performance, it was no surprise that Gurbani got admission in Duke University, where she shone in collegiate golf. She is currently still the highest ranked Indian Amateur in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Her win in 2015 representing DGC at the Indonesian Open and her recent win of the same title with a score of 11 under, along with a Runner- up position at the Taiwan Open has filled us all with a feeling of pride. Gurbani’s slim frame and calm composure belies both the strength in her drive and her determination. She continues to be an inspiration for the younger golfers many of whom hope to follow in her footsteps.

Aditi Ashok

18-year-old, Aditi turned professional and qualified for women’s golf in Rio Olympics 2016. Her Olympics stint bolstered India’s faith in women’s golf. Aditi has been playing non-stop after turning pro. Asked about the pressure she has to go through to play more, she mentioned that “It definitely is demanding but I enjoy playing and I am young so I am able to manage it.”

She added, “I do work a lot on my 􀂿 tness and I have never had any injuries so far and I would like to keep it that way.” The teenager has achieved more at her age than most in their lifetimes. She became the first Indian and the youngest golfer to win the

Lalla Aicha Tour School. She is also the only Indian golfer who played the Asian Youth Games (2013), Youth Olympic Games (2014), Asian Games (2014) and Rio Olympics (2016). Her smooth feat in Golf has attracted everyone’s attention to the game and to women playing the game in particular, making her an even greater champion and achiever. Currently ranked at 32 in the Ladies European Tour, the young player shared her
experiences with Mark Lamport-Stokes, Director of Public Relations for the LPGA. He has worked as a golf writer/broadcaster for the past 30 years in the United States, Britain and South Africa, covering the PGA, LPGA, European and Sunshine Tours. Following are some excerpts from the interview: Aditi Ashok has enjoyed a meteoric rise as a golf professional after emerging from an unlikely background, initially achieving success in her home continent of Asia and then in astonishing fashion on the Ladies European Tour (LET) last year. Having become the youngest player and first Indian to secure an LET card, Aditi produced a brainstorming finish to her debut campaign with back-to-back wins at the Hero Women’s Indian Open and the Qatar Ladies Open, ending the 2016 season placed second on the Order of Merit while earning the LET’s Rookie of the Year award. Fast forward a few months, and teenager Aditi was testing herself on the United States-based LPGA Tour, the most competitive circuit for the world’s best female players where she had one crystal-clear goal in her sights before the year-end. “Coming into 2017, my target was defi nitely to win Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour because if you win that award, then you know you are one of the best on tour. Just being best of all the newcomers would mean a lot to me.” Aditi became the first Indian woman to compete in all 5 Majors in one season. Aditi has played in five events so far this season, making the cut in four of them with a best finish of tied for 42nd at the ANA Inspiration, the first of the year’s five major championships on the LPGA Tour. “I know making four out of five cuts is okay but I feel I could have done a lot better, especially compared to the other rookies in the race this year,” said the 19-year-old from Bangalore, who began playing golf at the tender age of five. “Some of them are doing so well, almost winning every other week so I still know I have a lot to do this year.”

Aditi, who represented her country at the Rio Olympics last year, has found the LPGA Tour much more challenging than the LET because of its stronger and deeper fields but she would not want it any other way. “Ever since I was a child, if I did achieve something, I was never really interested in just staying there,” she said of her decision to transition as quickly as possible from the LET to the LPGA Tour. “I always wanted to do one better. “When I was 12 years old, I didn’t want to compete with the under-13s, I just wanted to go and compete with the under-18s. It was a case of always trying to be one step ahead because I wanted to challenge myself.” Asked what had surprised her most during her rookie LPGA Tour, Aditi replied: “Not so much the travel the courses that we play on but just the challenge 􀂿 nding my pace.” Aditi’s LPGA Tour experience is a world away from her early years as a golfer in Bangalore, where she was introduced to the game as a five-year-old after she and her parents had enjoyed breakfast at a hotel which overlooked the driving range of the Karnataka Golf Association.

“In my city, which has a population of 11 million, there are just six good golf courses, a couple of driving ranges and that’s about it,” said Aditi. “They do have junior programs India but it’s definitely not like South Korea or United States where golf is so easy to pick up. main issue with growing the game of golf in India is that is much more expensive than any other sport there. For badminton, you just need a racket; for cricket, you just need a bat and a ball whereas for golf you need all that infrastructure, a whole golf course, you need shoes, a golf bag, balls. That’s why kids don’t really take to golf in India” she signs off.

Diksha Dagar

Diksha Dagar might not be able to hear the sound when her golf club hits the ball, but striking a hole-in-one lights up her face like

nothing else. At the age of 16, the Indian golfer has made the country proud by winning a silver medal at the Dea􀃀 ympics (Deaf Olympics) at Samsun in Turkey. This was the first time that golf was a part of Deafiympics. Behind Diksha’s victory is an extraordinary tale of courage and commitment. “I have been learning golf since the age of
six. I love to play the sport, but no one was ready to coach me. So my dad became my coach and my strength,” says Diksha who, along with her brother Yogesh, also hearing-impaired, started accompanying her father Col. Narinder Dagar to the golf course.

“It wasn’t easy… My father had a job to take care off and I could not have played alone, so he coached my brother, too,” adds Diksha. The siblings didn’t play with the other children but used their common disability to spend time together playing golf. “Being differently-abled, I hardly had any friends. Besides my family, golf is my life,” says the Delhi-based girl. It’s not just her father whom Diksha credits for her achievements, but also the Indian Army. “Golf is an expensive sport. Being born in an army family, the Indian Army helped and supported me. My family made sacrifices. At times it was tough to chase my passion but I still did it… I got the opportunity to play at the Deaf Olympics and represent my country.”

The 16-year-old from Haryana got a bye in the quarterfinals and then defeated Germany’s Gonzalez Podbicanin in the semi-finals to set up a 􀂿 nal clash with Yost Kaylin for the gold medal. Diksha had broken a field record in the 􀂿 rst round with two-under 68 and carded 71 in the second round to total one-under 139, while Kaylin (73, 69) totalled two-over 142. In the gold medal match, Diksha started well and was 3 up after six holes but Kaylin clinched the next three holes with two birdies to level the score after nine holes at the Samsun Golf Sahasi club. In the back nine, Kaylin was one up after firing a long birdie putt on the 13th. However, Diksha too bounced back with three birdies and was one up on the 17th green. The experienced American then dropped a 16-footer birdie putt to level the score.

In the play-off, Kaylin emerged winner to clinch the gold, while Diksha settled for the silver. “It was not my day. I gave everything to my game but luck was not on my side but I’m happy that I could win the silver,” said Diksha. “My opponents told me that ‘no one can stop you from playing on LPGA, you have a fantastic game for any age’. It means a lot. I hope to keep working hard and do well for my country,” she added. The left handed golfer from Chappar, Jhajjar (Haryana) attended school in Delhi. She got hold of a club to swing at seven in 2008. She started playing Junior IGU Circuit in 2013 and swept the circuit by winning all her age category events in India. Of the eight tournaments she has participated in at the domestic level, she has won four and finished runner-up in two. She has also taken part in four international meets, including the World Ladies Amateur Golf Championship. Her achievements last year helped her earn a place in the national team for the Usha All India Amateur Golf Championship, which turns 100. She is the only Indian golfer (U-18) to be ranked in the top 500 at global level. Women want to be at par. What can Golf Clubs do?

Chie Arimura

It’s really not the golf that matters, truth be told. It’s the secret club. It’s the secret language. It’s being in the game, being where decisions are made. And that means being on the golf course.
A prestigious research firm dedicated to expanding opportunities for women in business found that a large percentage of women noted “exclusion from informal networks” as the biggest impediment to reaching their career goals, with golf being one of the leading informal networks from which women felt excluded. Women feel excluded from the secret society that is golf. There are two primary factors that keep women off the golf course: intimidation and fear of embarrassment but by allowing themselves to be excluded, women are doing themselves a disservice. There are some rudimentary skills one needs to play golf – you need to have the ability to get the ball in the air more often than not, and you need to have a basic understanding of rules and etiquette. Women need to understand that many of their assumptions about what it takes to play business golf are myths, and that those myths need to be replaced by a sense of reality. For example, most women assume that the men who play in corporate outings are good golfers. Not so! Many women assume that the men who play golf do not want to play with women. With a few exceptions, not so! You do not need to play as well as the LPGA or PGA Tour pros that you see on television each weekend – another
myth embraced by women that needs to be crushed. PGA Tour regulations do not deliberately preclude women from participating in tour events. Many ladies are ready to test their skills at a higher level; they want to learn from the guys. They would love to see men and women play on the same golf course but not necessarily against each other because they know there is a big difference. On the men’s tour, the fairways are generally longer and narrower, the greens harder and faster. It’s true that women are getting stronger and technically improved equipment is adding length to their shots. But for the most part, the men still have more power, and that’s a huge advantage and a cause for inequality. Although the physical barriers to women’s integration into traditionally male sport like golf are disappearing; social and psychological barri¬ers remain. Social constraints operate in the form of unwelcoming courses where women feel type- casted, ignored, overlooked, or unimportant on the course. Bar¬riers to women’s participation in golf constantly emerge despite golf’s apparent gender neutrality. More women touring profession¬als and amateurs to participate in professional men’s events will eventually help to change this perception and the golf industry as a whole will also bene􀂿 t by fostering greater gender equity and integration in golf. More women want to play golf than are currently doing so and it is heartening to see that there are already systematic changes that golf clubs and institutions have put in place to make golf courses a whole lot more inviting for women. Golf associations and managers are trying to reduce gender inequity in golf. For example, many golf courses have eliminated gendered teeing grounds altogether and are instead using markers such as front, middle, and back for teeing grounds. Some courses are using handicaps as teeing designations and although some may think merchandising for women as trivial, this is an important aspect and signals a woman-friendly course that appreciates women golfers. Golf has the potential to operate as a so-called ‘gateway sport’ leading to more gender equity in all sports. Many women “just want to play” and recognizing and reducing gendered barriers to their participation is a step in making that happen.Golf Clubs and institutions can boost female participation by:

  • Organizing programs for women, making golf more welcoming and less intimidating.
  • As the game is time consuming, new formats can be initiated; golf courses may offer six- or nine-hole options, or toy with ‘payby- the hole’ options. Short courses should also become more prevalent.
  • Among the changes ahead could be a global tour, a revised schedule and new formats that include men and women playing in the same tournament

What can Clubs and Courses do to Encourage Young Girls to start Golf?

Golf Clubs and Courses must be on a mission to empower girls through the game of golf and inspire them to dream BIG…
Golf program should specialize in providing girl-friendly environments for juniors to learn the game of golf, teach them more than just stance and swing; inspire th em to feel con􀂿 dent, build positive self-esteem and valuable life skills like confidence and perseverance
Affordable Rentals
The perception that golf is expensive and you need to buy all the equipment and/or join a club, could be overcome with affordable equipment hire or free rental.
Shorter Courses
A solution to the problem that golf takes too long is shorter courses. While 6-hole courses are perceived to be too short, 9-hole rounds appeal to young girls.
Creating an Enjoyable, Fun Environment
Clubs and courses could think of ways to make their coaching / introductory schemes fun and social. Young girls don’t feel comfortable in the traditional club environment and require a place to meet and share time with their own peer group New Formats like mini golf and golf skill activities set up on practice ranges can boost the fun element
Dress Code
Girls also don’t like having to dress in a particular way. They feel the golf -world is very masculine. They would like it to be more feminine.
Better TV Coverage
TV coverage of golf needs to be made more exciting and fan-focused for it to inspire young girls.

Trying to get your daughter interested in golf? Here are a few tips
It’s no secret that more boys are playing golf than girls. Often there are fewer female members at golf courses. The problem feeds its self: When there are fewer girls playing, less girls want to join- the less girls that join, the fewer girls play. Trying to push the idea that it’s cool to do something original and different doesn’t always work. And asking your eight-year old daughter to pick up the game saying that it will be a skill that will come in handy later is something most young girls don’t understand. While it is easy to sympathize with a young girl trying to learn the game alongside a group of boys, it is harder to think of a way to make golf more accessible and more popular for young girls. If your daughter is looking to play golf but is a little intimidated, here is some advice that may help.
Make it Social
The buddy system is one of the first places to start. Girls are social, they like to do things with friends. If you can get a friend involved, then she will have a practice partner and a playing partner. Even if your daughter is motivated to learn the game on her own, it doesn’t hurt to have someone her age and gender around and ready to play too.
Take Lessons, Preferably in a Group
The buddy system can be expanded to group lessons for young girls who are all in a similar age group. If you can get them together in a lesson, friendships start to form and they feel more comfortable and start to pursue the game more.
Watch the Pros
There are a lot of sports options for young girls to be active in. For a young girl to want to choose golf, you have to introduce the game in a way that appeals to them. Keep it light and fun. Show her just how fun the game can be: take your daughter to an LPGA event. It’s impressive to watch these women play on TV, but actually going to the venue in person brings an excitement that any young girl even slightly interested in golf is going to get energized about. Maybe she’ll be inspired to go the range after seeing the women in their smart outfits on the course.
Play together as a Family
Girls especially enjoy the bonding time with family. A trigger for daughters to take to golf is when you or her brother or the grandfather takes on a coaching role, teaching basic skills and encouraging her to practice and improve her game. Bring your daughter’s friends to the course and make a weekend out of it- you could find yourself looking to play a few more rounds of golf, too.

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