Courting success with a dash of style

Personality

Courting success with a dash of style

No, she doesn’t walk the ramp, instead she scorches the golf course. Watch her playing golf and you will be convinced that the teenager was born to rule the course, evidenced by her stunning displays at Eagleton Golf Resort and Karnataka Golf Association this month.

If the massive 14-stroke win in the opening leg of Women’s Professional Golf Tour of India was stunning, then the margin of victory in the second leg was no less impressive, a whopping 13 strokes.

The 19-year-old’s performance not only left her surprised but her opponents too were shocked to find the huge gulf in class.

They must have gotten the hint in her maiden year as a professional last year. After finishing second in the opening two tournaments, Sharmila won back-to-back titles at Chandigarh and Panchakula before ending the season with a second and third-place finish.

Her resume might be growing at an impressively fast rate, but the bubbly youngster had to contend with a major disappointment just when things were going according to plans. Having ruled the roost in the amateur circuit, the teenager received probably the biggest shock of her life when she was forced to sit out of competitive action a couple of years ago for alleged indiscipline. Instead of sulking, Sharmila took it as a challenge and terms the incident as the turning point in her life that has injected determination and focus back into the game.

“I’ve always been a sportive person. I was a State-level athlete, swimmer and played basketball and tennis for my school. I was also good at horse-riding. I started golf at the age of 11 for fun but after I started to win some sub-junior tournaments, the thought of taking it seriously occurred at 14. I started to do well in amateur tournaments and just when the confidence was really peaking I was forced to sit out, accused of something that I didn’t do.

“But, the time away helped me to re-channelise my focus back into the game. I trained harder than ever, spent more time working on my game with my coach Gaurav Dhivan and my annual stint with David Leadbetter also helped. I realised to be more cautious as people will be waiting to pull you down. However, I am happy all the hard work is paying off and my strong comeback is a way of saying how much I loved to be on course and how much they missed me,” added Sharmila, whose is born to an Indian mother and French father.

It can be easily debated that the two wins of the season were at home courses and much of the field – 11 pros -- hardly had any experience of playing down South. But, the stand out feature was her overall game that clearly suggested she was a cut above the rest and it will take something extraordinary for others to catch up with her as the season rolls on.

The natural talent aside, Sharmila’s success hasn’t come without the hard work. Apart from the regular practice and training sessions with coach Dhivan, she also spends a month every summer at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida, trying to sharpen her skills to international level. ‘Short-tempered’ during her early teens, Sharmila has also sought the assistance of Bob Winters, a leading mental conditioning coach, and spends a few hours in the gym once a week in an effort to strengthen her weak back.

Sharmila, blessed with supportive parents, is focused on achieving three goals. “Firstly, I want to emulate Saina Nehwal. Currently, she is the best woman sportsperson in the country who has given women’s badminton a facelift. Women’s golf here also needs someone like that. While, I am far away from being anywhere close to her, I am working hard to trying to make an impact.

“Secondly, I want to be on the USLPGA by 24 and thirdly I want to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Nothing can give you more pleasure than representing the country. These are my long terms goals but immediate plans are to play a host of Asian Tour events and gain more experience,” she pointed out.

The ambitions are big, but Sharmila does have it in her to accomplish them. Driving is  her major strength and the ability to put disappointment behind is apparent. However, the most important armoury in a golfer’s bag of skills – putting – is erratic. “Yes, my putting is my weakness but it has improved a lot since I started. However, I agree that it is far from good and needs more polishing.” If only Sharmila does get her putting right, then the blend of fashion and success could indeed be the cocktail to lift women’s golf in India.

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