Asian Games exclusion on mind, Diksha Dagar goes from survival mode to glory mode
Diksha Dagar has consistently been among India's top 2 women golfers since 2019, but was not selected among the 3 in the Asian Games team. Moving on from the raw deal, she is going for the kill in international golf.
Diksha Dagar, one of India's top golfers, has not been selected for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, set to begin from September 23, but she is making heads turn in the international golf circuit.
Having led the field at the Women’s Irish Open on the first two days, she slipped to T-3 after the third round, tried an aggressive maneouvre on the final day but ended up with a bogey to finish 7th on Sunday. This was her sixth Top-10 finish of the year. This also puts her among the qualifying places in the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit for the Ladies PGA Tour for now.
"I am playing the best golf I have ever played right now. I am very happy because I am getting into winning positions so many times, but wins also require a bit of luck. I am learning every day. The Irish Open was a beautiful tournament for me, but the third round was a difficult experience. Conditions were wet, the back-to-back bogeys cost me. An eagle on the final day would have taken me to the playoffs, but it didn't come off," Diksha told The Bridge.
Diksha could have tried to achieve a better ranking by playing defensively, but gone are the days when she was content being in survival mode, just making up the numbers. Now, she goes for the kill.
"I have no regrets that I didn't protect my rank, that is immaterial. In sports, you have to take calculated risks. I was within striking distance of the playoffs on the final day," she said.
On the renewed vigour with which she has conquered the courses this year, Diksha said her new equipment has allowed her to change her thought process.
"My new equipment is allowing me to try difficult shots which I wouldn't have earlier. If you have a defensive approach, you will get a par or a bogey. If you have an aggressive approach, you can chase a birdie. The difference of 4-5 shots in every round has been instilling confidence," she said.
India's 2nd-ranked golfer not among 3-member Asian Games team
Diksha is ranked 160th in the world as of August 2023. She is one of only two Indian women in the world's top 400 other than Aditi Ashok. Currently India number 2, she has continued to be in the top three among Indians since turning pro in 2019 even during injuries and bad form. She competed in the 2018 Asian Games and the 2020 Olympics too.
But at the 'trials' held to select India's golf team for the 2023 Asian Games in April this year, Diksha had been ranked 5th. Aditi Ashok was handed a direct entry while Avani Prashanth and Pranavi Urs, who topped the trials, were the two women selected to join Aditi, leaving Diksha in the cold.
"The trials that happened for the Asian Games can be called mini-trials or short cut trials. Before this, Indian Golf Union's policy was to conduct trials over 7-8 golf rounds at two different courses," said Colonel Narinder Dagar, Diksha's father, who is also her caddie on tours.
"The international ranking system for golf is robust. The manner of ruling Diksha out of the Asian Games team - on the pretext of form - is strange. Individual preferences shouldn't matter, officials should live up to their responsibilities to the nation... We all know the qualification process for the 2028 Olympics already," he said, asking if selections in Indian sports could also do with similar transparency.
But the Dagars are preferring to look ahead to the glory days of Indian golf rather than deliberate over the selection process.
"Before 2018, women's golf was a matter of mere participation for India. Aditi Ashok changed the perception of the sport at the Tokyo Olympics. Our male golfers have always done well, but with two girls now being genuine medal candidates on the world stage, this is the best time for Indian golf," said Col Dagar.