Dubai: Sharmila Nicollet’s dream is to push the popularity of Indian golf into overdrive next year by becoming the country’s first female golfer to win an event on the Ladies European Tour.
It may not have gone to plan at this week’s season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, where the 22-year-old from Bangalore missed the cut at 13 over par, but she has only just returned from a six-month injury lay-off.
Next year, however, will be another chance for her to reach the historic landmark after receiving a medical exemption to retain her card.
“Ladies’ golf is improving every year in India,” said World No.646 Nicollet, who is the only Indian female playing full-time on tour despite breakthroughs in the men’s game from Jeev Milkha Singh, Shiv Kupur and Arjun Atwal.
“Our [domestic] tour is about seven years old and we have different winners every year, which shows a lot of improvement in competition. But what we need is one international win for someone to put India on the global map. That’s what I want to do, change the face of golf in India by winning a tournament. I’d be the first [female] Indian to win on tour.
“That would create a huge spark and change the perspective of women’s golf entirely and give others the belief that you can make a lucrative career out of sport despite the lack of sponsors. India is a huge market and hopefully many more girls can join me on tour.
“But we lack academies, ranges and sponsorships. Not too many people are backing the girls even if they do have the opportunity. There’s also an Asian mindset that is dominated toward getting kids to become doctors or lawyers instead of athletes and I hope that changes.”
Having missed 13 cuts in 16 appearances in her rookie year in 2012, while following it up with a further five missed cuts from seven appearances this season, her dream may seem distant. But that doesn’t curb her enthusiasm.
“We don’t have cuts in India so it’s a big game-changer playing with the world’s best. It was a really tough challenge in terms of the differing weather conditions. And working on my approach and putts is what sets the other girls, who are winning tournaments, apart from me. But I’m heading in the right direction and working on lots of stuff, so hopefully it will come soon enough,” she said.
“I played well at the Turkish Open at the beginning of this year [career best tied for 17th] but I’m not consistent enough and need to regulate my under par rounds. I’ve done well to qualify and make the tour both years, but sustaining that throughout the year is my toughest challenge.”