As an excitable teenager and the youngest player in the field of 60, Aditi Ashok ought to be contemplating the prospect of using the Olympic Games golf competition as a fun experience.
Instead, the talented and articulate youngster from Bangalore, is considering something even more exciting – the first gold medal of Rio 2016 on Saturday afternoon.
One of the world’s most populous nations currently has one bronze medal to its name, and in 18-year-old Ashok, India now has a wonderful medal prospect after she fired back to back 68s at Reserva de Marapendi Golf Course for a 136 total and a share of sixth spot, just three strokes behind halfway leader Stacy Lewis.
It is a remarkable story, and one which promises to propel the sport of golf into the full glare of the public spotlight in India.
Ashok took up the game at the age of five after she and her parents sat eating breakfast in a restaurant overlooking a driving range. Soon afterwards, Aditi was competing in junior competitions and on the bottom rung of a ladder which has led her to the first women’s Olympic Games golf in 116 years.
Since that chance decision to try the driving range, Ashok has slipped effortlessly through the gears – Asian Junior Games, Asian Games, Youth Olympics in 2014 and now, at the age of 18, the Olympic Games themselves.
Calm and composed on the course, thoughtful and article off it, she exudes an equal measure of confidence and humility. And her view of golf in India hints at a great career ahead for this daughter of an estate agent, who is carrying her bag this week.
She said: “I think it would be big in India, and also being a golfer, a woman golfer, it will definitely boost the popularity of the sport. That’s what I’m hoping to do – in India and also all over the world, because golf is in the Olympics for the first time, so I think it would make golf more public among the general people who watch golf, not just the golf fans who watch it right now.”
Ashok carries her country’s flag with pride and confidence, and she added: “I think golf every day is different. You never hit the same shot twice. So every day is a new experience, and you can’t really come with any expectations. The game is bigger than all of us, so that’s what I like about it. Every day, you have a new experience.”
Her father, Ashok Gudlamani, is equally keen that his daughter can be a pioneer for the sport of golf in India. He said: “Hopefully she’ll make the sport popular and a lot of kids pick up and golf becomes another great sport in India. Luckily she’s doing well and a lot of people are looking up to her.
“We’re getting a lot of messages from the country, friends, family, saying we are all rooting for you. Indians are not performing well at the Olympics and hopefully if she gets to the podium, it will be great.
The world is about to hear a lot more of Aditi Ashok.