It seemed most appropriate on Tuesday that in the build-up to the final event of her phenomenal rookie season, Aditi Ashok was somewhere 38,000 feet up in the sky.
Don’t be surprised if you find the 18-year-old, otherwise a very grounded individual, walking on air as she competes in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic this week.
What the Bangalore girl has achieved in the past one year, boggles the mind. An amateur this time in 2015, she qualified for the Ladies European Tour by winning the Qualifying School. She then qualified for the Olympics, and even led the tournament, which was stacked with superstars, after 27 holes.
There was no stopping her once she returned from the Olympics. In seven starts since Rio, she has finished inside the top 10 in six, won twice and her worst finish was a tied 46th place at the Fatima Bint Ladies Open.
Ashok got her breakthrough win in her home tournament – the Indian Open – and then backed it up with another win the week after at the Qatar Ladies Open. It elevated her to second in the LET Order of Merit and her earning of E180,415 cannot be surpassed by any other rookie.
The icing on the cake came on Sunday, when less than one year of turning pro, she secured her LPGA Tour card. By finishing tied 24th at the Qualifying School in Daytona Beach, Ashok now has a category 17 exemption for 2017.
The trip back from the US was the reason Ashok wasn’t in town until late Tuesday night.
All the long flights across time zones would be one of the reasons you’d expect her not to be in her best form this week, but Steven Giuliano, the Malaysia-based coach of Ashok, insists that his student likes nothing more to play golf week in and week out.
And while most experts are crediting the experience of playing the Olympics as the reason for Ashok’s recent run of form, Giuliano has a different view.
“I think it’s more a case of having the opportunity to play a longer stretch of events and finding her groove on the course,” said Giuliano.
“The first half of the year, she had to complete her final exams and had not turned 18. The event schedule on LET was quiet until June.
“I feel as she’s been about to play consecutive events in a row on Tour, her confidence has started to build with each week. She has done a great job of tightening up her short game around the greens that has led to some consistent scoring.”
Her short game has just been exceptional. At 233.8 yards off the tee, the slender Ashok lags far behind most players on the Tour, but once on the green, her flat stick has worked like magic. With 28.9 average putts per round, she is fourth in the stat category.
Her putting is also the reason Ashok would fancy her chances this week despite the long travel. In her website, she has a section on courses she has played and that includes a note on the Majlis course. It reads: “The best greens I have played on so far!!”
“She has worked very hard and continues to develop a strong arsenal of shots around the green,” said Giuliano, insisting that they are working hard on her long game as well.
“We regularly review her game stats to highlight areas that may be holding her back and she’s open to learning new shots needed to combat those situations.
“In the off-season, we will focus somewhat on her driving and iron play also and she continues to work with her strength and conditioning coach Nicolas (Cabaret) to stay injury free and build her strength.”
Another former coach of Ashok, the Bangalore-based Tarun Sardesai, oversaw her initial development from junior days until the end of 2012, and says he is not surprised at all by her remarkable rise.
“There are times when you just look at a kid and you know that kid is special. Aditi was very special,” said Sardesai.
“She would keep detailed notes of everything I told her as a 10-year-old, and if I said something to the contrary six months later, she’d be the one to point out.
“Her greatest quality is that she can soak up any instruction given to her like a sponge. And she is absolutely fearless on the golf course.
“I am not surprised at all with the success she has had so early in her career. In fact, I won’t be surprised if she goes on and wins on the LPGA Tour in her first year as well.”
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