“The growth of prize money is a huge leap forward and opening the events to limited international participation will also give our girls a taste of tough competition.”
– Champika Sayal, Secretary General, Women’s Golf Association of India
Golf has become a well known sport in India. Not only men, but women too have started taking greater interest in the game. Today there are excellent women golfers in the country and they represent India in the World Championships too. Women’s professional golf started 27 years after men’s professional golf in India. Champika Sayal, a former golf player and former Chairperson of the Indian Golf Union (Ladies Section) mooted the concept in 2004 after she was invited to attend the WU YI forum in China during the Asian Ladies Invitational Team Championships. As she was a former national player and a good administrator, she was called upon by the Coordinator of the Queen Sirikit Cup, Rae Vadee Suwan to explore possibilities to start professional golf for women in India which could help to organise tournaments for players coming up from the national amateur golf circuits in Asian countries. Sayal submitted a proposal to the Indian Golf Union in July 2004 after which it was decided to set up Professional Golf Tours for women in India. Champika Sayal became the first Secretary General of the Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) (Pro Golf).
On 22 October 2005, the first ever Women’s Professional Golf tournament was played at DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon, Haryana. The tournament was won by another legend of women’s golf, Smriti Mehra. In October 2006, the first DLF Women’s Indian Open and a 5 leg tour were organised by Sayal under the guidance of Kochhi Kato, Commissioner of the Ladies Asian Golf Tour. In March 2007, India hosted the first Women International Professional Golf Championship namely, the DLF Women’s Indian Open in Gurgaon, Haryana. This event was won by Ya Ni Yseng of Taiwan. Some other women golfers are also present who have done well on the golf circuits. Smriti (Simi) Mehra is one of the best amongst them. She has won 8 Professional golf events in India and she was also the first Indian woman to be a participant in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour. In 2002, she has won the 2012 Malaysian Open. She has also won the 1996 and 2004 Futures Tour. Irina Brar of Chandigarh is another golfer who has won the DLF Women’s Professional Tour in 2007. Shalini Malik won the opening round in the 8th leg of the DLF Women’s Professional Golf Tour in 2009. Other Professional women golfers are Vandana Agarwal, Sanam Merchant, Mayali Talwar, Shruti Khanna, Pariniti Grewal, Seema Sobti, Vani Kapoor. However, the top women golfers in India are struggling hard to compete with the other teams in the Women’s World Tour and still have a long way to go internationally.
India to organise Women’s Golf Open in November
The crème-de-la-crème of Indian Women’s Golf will be up against international golfers like Laura Davies and Caroline Hedwall in the Hero Women’s Golf Open from November 30, 2012. It is the sixth edition of the championship and will be held at the DLF Golf and Country Club in Gurgaon. Around 108 golfers from 25 countries will participate in the event among which 45 players are from the European circuit and 35 from the Ladies Asian Golf Tour. Among the Indian Golfers there will be 14 professionals and 3 amateurs participating in the event. The Indian team will be spearheaded by Sharmila Nicollet and Smriti Mehra. Nalini Singh and Vani Kapoor will also be seen in the event. It will be Vani Kapoor’s first Professional Tour. Vani said that “the last one year has been very satisfying and I am really looking forward to this event. I will be playing at my home turf so I am pretty confident about things. But it is going to be a tough field. Personally I would be aiming to finish among the top 20.” Another achievement was the increment of the prize money from Rs. 42 lakhs to Rs. 70 lakhs. Champika Sayal said that “the growth of prize money is a huge leap forward and opening the events to limited international participation will also give our girls a taste of tough competition.”