Home contingent has the firepower to surprise strong international challenge at Women’s Indian Open

The home hopes will be pinned on 2016 champion Aditi Ashok at the Hero Women’s Indian Open which tees off at the DLF Golf & Country Club on Thursday.

That is with good reason, for the 24-year-old remains the only Indian to have won the event and who has subsequently been making waves at a global level.

Yet, it is not just Aditi but a bunch of other youngsters who have emerged in recent years and are itching to get a shot at the biggest prize in Indian women’s golf.

Among them are Diksha Dagar, the only Indian woman other than Aditi Ashok to have won on the LET; Tvesa Malik, who was Tied-6th in 2019; Vani Kapoor, who has played and made the cut in every single Women’s Indian Open since 2011 and was tied-6th in 2017 and Amandeep Drall, who has played steadily this season.

These four plus the likes of Ridhima Dilawari, Neha Tripathi, Gaurika Bishnoi, Pranavi Urs and rookie Sneha SIngh, and the Bakshi sisters, Hitaashee and Jahanvi, are all capable of springing a surprise.

Then there are amateurs like Anika Varma, who was fifth and the best Indian in 2019 and the fast-emerging Avani Prashanth, who played and made the cut at the prestigious Augusta National Women’s Amateur. In short, the home challenge is young and strong and capable of making a big impression on the event, which makes a return after a three-year gap since 2019.

Ashok, India’s sole representative on the high-profile LPGA Tour in the United States, won the HWIO in her rookie year and then added two more wins – a second one in 2016 and a third in 2017.

A consistent performer every time she has come to the LET from the LPGA, Ashok, also knows there will always be pressure from being a standard-bearer as India’s first winner of the tournament.

“I think there’s always pressure,” Ashok said.

“My first year on the LET, I felt like I had something to prove. I knew that back home, a lot of little girls would be watching.

“I used to come to this event and I wanted to win because I had never seen an Indian girl win. So I feel like that’s a big thing to have and girls can see that an Indian has won this event and they can win this and can play on Tour. I’m basically homegrown, If I could reach that level, I think anybody can do it. So yeah, it is pressure, but I feel like it’s also an opportunity to motivate youngsters to do the same,” she added.

Also looking for a good week on home turf will be players like Vani Kapoor and Amandeep Drall, who have been on the fringes of full membership on the LET having played a number of tournaments on the tour this season.

In all, 24 Indian professionals and 6 amateurs are in the 114-strong field at the tournament this year, the highest number ever entered.

Meanwhile, four winners of the ongoing Ladies European Tour season will be seen in action this week including Meghan MacLaren of England, Spain’s Ana Pelaez Trivino, Tiia Koivisto of Finland and Frenchwoman Anne-Charlotte Mora.

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