Aditi Ashok: Qualifying for Tokyo Olympics not on my mind

Aditi Ashok is currently ranked 165th in the world. She last competed at the Los Angeles Open in April where she finished tied for 39th place with a score of one under-par.

India's Aditi Ashok featured in the 2016 Rio Olympics.   -  Getty Images

All of 23 years, but already with a wealth of experience under her belt, India’s Aditi Ashok continues to carry India’s hopes in women’s golf on the world stage.

The Bengaluru girl, currently ranked 165th in the world, last competed at the Los Angeles Open in April where she finished tied for 39th place with a score of one under-par.

In an email interview with Sportstar , she talks about her performances in 2021, competing at the Olympics and more.

How would you sum up your performances this year?

The year 2021 has been fine so far. I have played in 6 events on the LPGA. It could have been better but it hasn’t been bad either.

Ever since you returned to competition, what sort of mood have you sensed among your fellow golfers? Is there apprehension about future tournaments? Personally, how are you approaching the tournaments?

It’s great that we have been able to return to competition even though we are having to deal with the pandemic. Travelling and fitness on tour during Covid has been challenging and nothing like what it was before but I think all players are glad to be back on tour and competing. I am doing the best I can and taking it one event at a time.

READ: Aditi Ashok finishes tied-39th at LA Open

Last year, the golf calendar was also affected by the pandemic. How frustrating was it for you to not compete regularly? Did you use that time to introspect your game?

Personally, it was very different to what I was used to in terms of golf. I have grown up playing at least 15-20 tournaments each year so it was difficult to stay at home and not be able to play golf. Also keeping up with fitness was hard for me during the pandemic.

During the time away from golf, were you able to pick up any new skills?

I can’t recall the last time I was home for such a long time so it was nice to be home and do the things I miss when I travel, so I ended up watching a lot of movies and just enjoyed time at home. I didn’t pick up any new skills.

File picture of Aditi Ashok.   -  AP

 

Along with you, there are two other Indian women golfers- Tvesa Malik and Diksha Dagar, who also compete regularly at tournaments. Does having such competition spur you to get better every day?

I think it’s great that there are a few more girls now, playing on Ladies European Tour (LET). It’s always good to see players from India doing well. Unlike other sports, in golf we don’t play against each other, we play the golf course and do the best we can with the given course/weather conditions. I am always motivated to play better not necessarily because of other players but more because the game itself motivates me and I try to do better than my best and not anyone else’s.

In March this year, you participated at the ANA Inspiration, which was your 16th major at the time, going equal with Anirban Lahiri. That must have been a special feeling...

I actually didn’t know I equalled Anirban Lahiri till the media mentioned it. It was a nice little milestone but it has always been my goal to perform better at the majors and not just participate in them.

You are ranked 44th, in the Olympic qualification table and 165th, overall, currently.  There is a month left in the Olympic qualification period for Tokyo. Is qualifying for the Games in your mind right now or have you kept qualification for Paris 2024 as your main objective?

I am not thinking of qualifying or the rankings right now. I’m just focussing on each tournament I get to play in.

You did have a taste of the Olympics in Rio in 2016. How was that experience like, to be at the most prestigious event, representing India in golf?

It was an honour to be a part of the games especially as the youngest golf Olympian in 2016. The experience was something I won’t forget and I hope I get to experience it again in Tokyo.

A BBC study recently revealed inequality in prize money for men and women golfers. For instance, the prize money for men and women at this year's US Open was $2.25million and $1million, respectively. What is your take on this and what do you feel can be done to try and reduce the gap?

We have come a long way especially when you look at the US Open but there is still a huge gap to close. I think the issue is deep rooted. A lot of people do not view women as golfers or even as sportspeople and the issue starts there. From childhood, girls aren’t encouraged to play many sports as much as the boys are and that culture needs to change globally. I am lucky my parents thought otherwise and encouraged me to pursue my dream of playing golf professionally. But more efforts towards growing golf for girls and including girls in the sport need to be made. People also need to see more women play golf on TV and see that our skill levels/ability is equal to the men if not better.

Men hit the ball farther, obviously because of physical strength, but that is not a reason to believe they are inherently better golfers. I think more joint events and more television hours will definitely make the game popular which will lead to more sponsorship dollars.

Finally, what are your targets for the rest of the year?

To finish higher in the LPGA rankings and LET rankings as I play on both tours, although I am yet to start my season on the Ladies European Tour in 2021.

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