Sharmila Nicollet. Photo: AP
Sharmila Nicollet. Photo: AP

Indian Open: an opportunity for local golfers

Into its 11th edition, the Hero Women's Indian Open has become the go-to tournament for golfers in the region

It’s that time of the year. The quick greens and long (albeit daunting) fairways, lakes and dramatic bends at the DLF Golf and Country Club, Gurugram, are ready to challenge golfers at the Hero Women’s Indian Open (HWIO).

The tournament, which is to be held from 9-12 November, will attract women participants from 30 countries. “We have some global names coming and I am proud that we started out with a $100,000 and now we are a $400,000 event," says Kavita Singh, president of the Women’s Golf Association of India.

Golfers have a love-hate relationship with this course designed by Gary Player, with its many lakes, rocky quarries and tee boxes at a height. Players who have battled it in the past admit that reading the fast greens is difficult. Women professionals play 6,029 yards, about 1,200-odd yards less than male professionals.

Into its 11th edition, the HWIO has become the go-to tournament for golfers in the region. It’s co-sanctioned by the European and Indian Ladies tours. Carlota Siganda from Spain, currently ranked world No.20, will be the biggest draw, along with the US’ Beth Allen (ranked 126), and Denmark’s Emily Pedersen (ranked 139).

Pedersen, 21, has already made a mark for herself in two years as a professional golfer. She won the HWIO as a rookie in 2015. She was tied in 14th place (T4) in the Evian Championship in 2016, her best performance in a major tournament.

At home, defending champion and Olympic golfer Aditi Ashok, the only Indian to have won this tournament, is making rapid strides on the international golf circuit. The 19-year-old has enjoyed some good results in her rookie season on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA ) Tour, including a T8 finish at the Marathon Classic. She was the rookie of the season on the Ladies European Tour in 2016, announced shortly after her win last year.

Ashok arrives in Gurugram on the back of a determined effort in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, where she was T28. She is currently ranked 106th in the world, having played her first full season on the LPGA Tour.

Vani Kapoor will be another player to watch. She finished tied 36 at the Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco this year. Although she is currently seventh in the Hero Women’s Professional Golf Tour Order of Merit (based on total earnings in a season), she has had three wins in five tournaments. She will be playing on her home turf at the DLF Golf and Country Club, having the edge of many practice rounds and previous game experiences.

Sharmila Nicollet is on the comeback trail with a new training schedule. The 28-year-old has been training in Florida with golf guru Gary Gilchrist, who has mentored several female professionals, including China’s first LPGA Tour player Shanshan Feng, and helped Yani Tseng to reach world No.1.

Gaurika Bishnoi, who tops the Order of Merit rankings on the Indian tour, is excited to turn this into a learning experience and put her new game to the test. “As a professional, I have started working harder, be it on physical fitness or mental fitness or changes in the game."

Amandeep Drall, who has had two victories this season, says, “I am in good form otherwise, I just need to work on my fitness."

With top Indian and overseas players raring to go on a challenging course, a fascinating contest awaits golf aficionados.