India medal hope Aditi Ashok has a tough choice to make before teeing up in a star-studded women’s golf field at the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Thursday -- will it be mum or dad on her bag?
The 25-year-old finished agonisingly out of the medals in fourth at the Tokyo Olympics with effervescent mother Maheshwari, known to everyone as “Mash”, as caddie.
“Tokyo 2020 was a great experience and having my mum caddie for me was a fun experience,” Ashok told AFP before leaving for China.
Mash and dad Gudlamani have taken turns as bag-carrier since the golfer was seven and were there in 2016 when, as a teenager, she first grabbed headlines by winning the Women’s Indian Open.
At 16 she was the youngest player at the Rio Olympics the same year, with her dad doing the caddie duties.
Her Tokyo exploits, where she was in silver-medal position for the first three rounds before being edged off the podium by former world number one Lydia Ko, put women’s golf firmly on India’s sporting map.
But level-headed Ashok, who plays on the US LPGA and Ladies European Tours, did not dwell on her Tokyo disappointment.
“My mindset has always been to focus on the process more than the outcome,” she said.
“I always give my best and move on to the next event. And I keep doing the same week after week.”
Ashok has gone on to crack the world’s top 50 for the first time this year after earning a fourth European Tour win in Kenya in February.
“This season so far has been the high point,” Ashok said.
“Not because of any one week in particular, but mainly because of the way I’ve played on both the tours and managed my game as well as breaking into the top 50.”
Mum and dad have different styles on the course, Ashok said.
“My dad and I tend to have more discussions about (how to play) a shot as he knows my game well enough to help,” Ashok said.
“My mum doesn’t help as much with the decision-making (on the course) but I feel that helps too as I am more decisive and calmer while playing with her on my bag.”
Ashok first picked up a club at age five in Bengaluru, the southern Indian tech hub where she grew up, and began learning to play at the same time as her parents.
Golf has been a defining aspect of the family’s relationship but she says she has had to work to “keep things separate” off the course.
She was tight-lipped as to who would get the bag-carrying honour when Ashok leads a three-member women’s golf team at the West Lake International Golf Course in Hangzhou this week.
“I’m excited to play the Asian Games in China and going about my practice and preparation to do my best,” she said.
“I don’t want to go with any expectations because it doesn’t usually help.”
Women’s golf was virtually unknown in India before Ashok’s Olympic achievements, which all began when the then-teenager was in eighth place after two rounds at the 2016 Rio Games before fading to finish 41st.
“I’m happy that golf gets the attention it needs from the media in our country, where cricket is the most dominating sport,” she said.
“Hopefully this can grow even more now that we have more men and women playing the sport professionally.”
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