Over the last decade golf as a sport in India has shown tremendous growth. Women Golfer Sharmila Nicollet is also on the rise. Thanks to the efforts of legendary golfers like Jeev Milkha Singh and Arjun Atwal, today golf in India is reaching new heights every passing day.
For growth of any sport what is really needed – few success stories, some inspiration to spark the fire and a few Icons…
Sharmila Nicollet is such an iconic female golf player.
Sharmila Nicollet and her tryst with Golf
The story of India’s tryst with golf started way back in 1829 when the second oldest course in the world was established in Calcutta, India.
Sharmila Nicollet with Franco-Indian heritage was born on March 12, 1991 in Bangalore. Her father Marc Nicollet is French and her mother Surekha Nicollet is from Bangalore. Surekha is a perfumist and has her own Padmini Aroma Ltd in Bangalore while Marc is software professional.
She is a former national sub-junior swimming champ with over 72 gold and silver medals won in state and national aquatic meets (1997 to 2001).
Story so far…
Sharmila Nicollet pursued golf in 2002 at the age of 11.She was introduced to golf by her cousins who played the game. What was initially as a ‘fun’ thing to do, soon became a deep-rooted interest that saw her build an impressive amateur career.
Sharmila Nicollet on the Amateur Circuit
- Nicollet has represented India at the Asian Games at Doha 2006 and in Asia Pacific Junior Golf Tournament.
- Nicollet won the All-India Ladies Amateur Championship in 2007–2008. She was the youngest lady golfer winning the championship.
Professional Circuit performance of Sharmila Nicollet
- Nicollet turned professional in 2009.
- She is the youngest Indian golfer to qualify for Ladies European Tour. She is the second Indian to earn a full card on the Ladies European Tour.
- Nicollet won the 2009–2010 Order of Merit on the Women’s Golf Association of India and then five further events to finish on top of the 2010– 2011 Order of Merit.
- She finished the top Indian golfer at T22, at the 2011 Hero Honda Women’s Indian Open.
- She qualified with a full tour card for the Ladies European Tour in 2012, being the youngest Indian golfer to qualify. She is the second after Smriti Mehra to earn a full card on the Ladies European Tour.
- Sharmila Nicollet was the champion of the Hero-KGA tournament in 2012 and the Hero-WPGT in 2015.
Sharmila Nicollet Awards
- Amateur – Lady golfer of the year – 2007
- Professional – Player of the year – 2010
Lesser Known facts of Sharmila Nicollet
- Sharmila, a polyglot is fluent in English, French, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Urdu.
- Sharmila considers Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy her heroes in golf.
- She was a state level athlete and National sub-junior swimming Champion.
- She is one of the most photographed golfers, male or female, in India.
A brief history of Indian golf
Golf’s history can never be complete without the mention of India. In 1829 the second oldest course in the world Royal Calcutta Golf Club was established in India. It was the first golf course established outside the geographical boundaries of Great Britain.
In 1955 Indian Golf Union (IGU) constituted for the management and promotion of the sport in the country. In 1964 first Indian Open Tournament was held. This tournament is now held annually and has contributed significantly to the development of golf in India.
Golf in India has come a long way with India’s Lakshman Singh winning individual gold and men’s golf team won gold and at the 1982 Asian Games. At 2006 Asian Games men’s golf team won silver medal.
Indian golfers have earned laurels in the sport.
- Jeev Milkha Singh won three titles on the European Tour, four on the Japan Golf Tour, and six on the Asian Tour. Singh has won the Asian Tour Order of Merit twice.
- Anirban Lahiri has won European Tour twice and Asian Tour seven times.
- Arjun Atwal became the first India-born player to become a member of the US-based PGA Tour and win the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
- Jyoti Randhawa became the first Indian to won the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2002.
Road Ahead for Gold in India…
Mr. Pawan Munjal, Chairman and managing director of Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest two-wheeler company and the biggest corporate supporter of golf in India feels that more support from corporates will help in nurturing young talent and taking India’s international profile in the sport to the next level.
“For starters, there is a dire need to have more public golf courses, which can be accessed by budding golfers. Currently out of the 250-plus golf courses in India, only a handful is open to the public or walk-ins. The golfing infrastructure has to be made accessible and affordable to greater numbers. That will kindle interest and love for the game in the general public and parents, who will then be motivated to let their kids take up the sport.” said Mr Munjal while talking to sport journalist of TOI during The Hero Indian Open Golf Tournament in March 2018 in Gurgugram.
A small section of committed enthusiasts has nurtured golf in the country and much more needs to be done to encourage young talent to take up the sport.
Golf in India: The Other Side of the Wall
Golf is especially popular among the wealthier classes but has not yet caught on with others due the expenses involved in playing. Despite a vast population and a long history of golf, very few in India have access to the game.
Story of a professional golfer..
Professional golfer Anil Mane lives with his wife and four small children in small room in slums in Mumbai.
On the other side of the wall is Bombay Presidency Golf Club.
Anil‘s father was a caddie, and the young Anil went into the family business, too.
“I was 12 years old when I first hit a golf ball,” he says. He was caddying, and on the fourth hole his player suggested he have a swing with a 7-iron.
“At that time I didn’t like golf,” he says. “But after that shot I liked it, and I thought, I can play golf.”
He left school at 14 and started caddying and playing in earnest. Two years ago, one of the supportive club members agreed to sponsor him on the domestic pro tour. He played 15 events on the domestic tour in 2011 and in another feeder-tour event in Lucknow had a second-place finish. His total winnings from both tours was Rs 1,82,000.
“My dream is to play on the Asian Tour and win a tournament,” “But it’s hard to play,” he says, “because it costs 20,000 rupees for each tournament for entry and travel.