Sportswomen in India are finally receiving the credit and recognition they have always deserved. From Mary Kom to Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal- people in India want to know about their female sports champions just as much as they wish to know about their favourite sportsmen. Today, SheThePeople.TV introduces you to one such rising female golfer who has been playing consistently well and is seen as the future of Women’s Golf in India.
In an interview with Shubhangini Arora for SheThePoeple.TV, Ankita Tiwana talked about golf and her journey as a female sportsperson so far. Here is an excerpt from the conversation.
When did you first start playing golf? And what excites you most about the game?
I started playing golf when I was 13. Any sport, may it be golf or anything else, (and this may sound like a cliché,) makes you get in touch with your inner-self. You need to know yourself and be in touch with your spiritual side to excel at it. Especially talking of golf, I think it’s one of the very few sports that are not ‘reactive.’ You have no competitors but yourself, so essentially it’s just you affecting your game and performance. That is what excites me most about the game.
There is a huge gender disparity in India in terms of sponsorship and the money to be made from golf. So what made you take it up professionally?
Well, right now in India, sadly, no sport, except cricket, gives you the needed financial assistance. And especially golf- a very small part of our country’s population plays the sport, so the recognition will not come overnight; we all need to work very hard for it. The reason I chose take up golf was for different reasons. I like the fact that the game helps me connect with my spiritual side. As I said, to play the game well, you need to first know yourself well- that excites me more than the money aspect of it.
In fact, when I first turned pro in 2011, I didn’t think I would take it up professionally. It was only about two years later, in 2013 that I realized that I want to completely dedicate myself in pursuing the sport.
You’ve been doing really well lately. Since you turned pro in 2011, you have consistently been performing well on the Professional Golf Tours, so what factors have contributed to your success?
I think realizing what it takes to succeed; realizing what it takes to be a good player, what matters on the course and this constant drive to want to be better. If you want to make it big in golf as a woman, you need to learn to never give up. There will be hurdles; I am personally facing problems finding a sponsor. The prize money is good, but not great. If anything, it just helps you break even. But despite all this, one should not stop dreaming and wanting to make it big.
In recent times, female sportspersons like Mary Kom., Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and even the National Kabaddi team- all have been performing much better than their male counterparts. As a female golfer, how does their success affect you?
Their success means a lot to me and more than that, I think it means a lot for our country. This is probably the first time Indian sportswomen have outshone the sportsmen, and you can see its impact everywhere. I see parents of young girls finally realizing that pursuing a career in sports in a viable option. I have personally seen more girls playing on the golf course; which is exactly what we need- numbers! We need more and more people to play the sport and breakaway from this pre-conceived notion that golf is just for the elite. It is a game for the masses and I’m glad people are finally seeing it.
“probably the first time Indian sportswomen have outshone”
Since you started playing golf as an amateur, what changes have you seen in women’s golf in the country?
The number of players, as I just mentioned have increased tremendously- I mean that. With the international exposure people now know how to train better and are ready for international participation. We get better sponsors and more support- this is true for both men and women, of course women could do much better in terms of sponsorships, but we are surely getting there. Because we’ve been empowered, there has been immense growth, and you will only see it go further up from here on.
You support an NGO called Sanjhi in Udaipur. Please tell us something about it.
Our organization basically focuses on creating awareness about the hazardous environmental changes. We teach young kids- urban and rural about photography, through which we try and communicate the environmental dangers our country faces today. Through the initiative we have also touched the lives of many women with the support of welfare societies.
What all do you hope to achieve in your professional career in the next 10 years?
In the next 10 years, I hope to make it to the international circuit. I would like to mention Simi Mehra here as well. I don’t think she is given enough credit for all that she has done for Women’s golf in India. She was the first and the only woman to play on the LPGA tour and ranked high at a time when golf was nowhere near it is today in India. Now that I am playing professionally, I can imagine how difficult it must’ve been for her, especially at that time.
For me, I just want to make my country proud in the next ten years and make a mark on the international circuit.
[Featured Picture Credit: The Hindu]
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