It is peak summer in Bengaluru. The city is enduring an unexpected rise in temperature since the onset of the season. Amid the intense heat and rising humidity, 11 women golfers sweated it out for five gruelling days to grab the one berth that was available in the trials for the Asian Games.
Among the 11 golfers, who teed off their competition at the lush green meadows of Karnataka Golf Academy, a 15-year-old amateur, Avani Prashanth was the only one to make the cut, keeping her nerves through the four rounds.
Mustering on her composure and making sure she is sufficiently hydrated, Avani shot a steady final round of 1-under 71 and finished ahead of Jahanvi Bakshi on the final day. Avani's total of four best rounds was 14-under 274, while Jahanvi's four best rounds added up to 12-under 276.
Results for selection trials
Thus she became the third Indian woman golfer after Olympian Aditi Ashok and Tvesa Malik to book their spot at the Asian Games, which begins in Hangzhou, China on September 10.
Incidentally, Avani, who is the only one among the three to book her spot through trials — with the other two making it based on their rankings, becomes the youngest golfer in India's history to qualify for the Asian Games. Aadil Bedi, who held this record till today, had participated in the 2018 Asiad at age of 17.
At 15, Avani has been making huge strides in golf silently while the country was slowly developing its interest in the sport with Aditi Ashok's spectacular campaign at the Tokyo Olympics.
No further evidence was needed to show her enormous potential when the Bengaluru teen became the first Indian female golfer to be invited to compete at the hallowed Augusta National Women's Amateur, the highest-powered Amateur tournament for Women in the World. The venue, Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, USA, has witnessed the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson win on numerous occasions. Competing against a strong field of 72 players, which had the top 40 of the top 41 players in the world participating, Avani made the cut to the Top 30 and finished tied 21st after the Final round at Augusta National Golf Club.
spoke to Avani's father M S Prashanth at a length over a telephonic conversation. "She shot 14-under 274. If you ask me, it was a top-class performance. She actually played for six days at the KGA, including five days of trials and another day of practice. She is a very fit player. All she did was stay hydrated and keep on doing what she regularly does. The heat was excessive this time, but I didn't feel she was bothered by the weather conditions," adds Prashanth.
Talking about his daughter's performance in Augusta National Women's Amateur Championships Prashanth quipped, "Avani was phenomenal in Augusta. I can say her long game was better than anybody else in the tournament." In fact, Avani was carrying her driver 250+yards in Augusta, well above the LPGA average.
Avani, who started playing the overseas tournament at the age of six, picked up her first golf club before even she had turned four years old. It was his father who wanted his own father, a retired army officer, to take up the game. "We were staying in Gurgaon. I was inspiring my father to take up the game when Avani was pleading to come with us to the golf course. I was initially hesitant, but my father reminded me of the several cousins in our family who were already prodigies in Carnatic music. I believed that was the sign I had," reminisces Prashanth.
Avani, who was training at the Eagleton Golf Resort in Bengaluru, shifted her training base to the KGA after the previous venue got caught up in a litigation issue with the Karnataka Government. "The KGA has been really supportive of Avani and the committee has assured us of all support to Avani," says Prashanth.
Avani has passionately pursued her amateur golf career and has given all her dedication to the sport. In 2021, she became the youngest player to win India's amateur treble — All-India Juniors, All-India Ladies Amateur, and the Billoo Sethi memorial — all in one year. Competing at the Asia-Pacific Women's Amateur in October, Avani finished tied for 16th, the best result for an Indian amateur debutant.
Besides golf, Avani, who is a ninth-grade student at the Greenwood High International School has kept an excellent track record with her studies, scoring between 85% and 90% in every examination. As the teen prodigy sets her sight on Asian Games, she would still be having a busy roster in the next five months, including the British Ladies Amateur Championships in June, Amundi German Master's in July, R&A Junior Open Championships in Scotland, European Women's Amateur Championships, World Amateur Championships, among other overseas tournaments.