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Aditi Ashok

Chopra makes it a golden day but Aditi Ashok was no less a winner

India star Aditi Ashok on her way to a gallant fourth place in the women’s Olympic golf competition in Saitama on Saturday. Image courtesy IGF/Twitter.

By Rahul Banerji

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Neeraj Chopra made it a golden evening for India in Tokyo with his historic effort with the javelin though one could argue Aditi Ashok had set the tone earlier on in the day.

Aditi battled through the final round of the women’s golf competition to end up one stroke shy of a place on the podium, and what a gallant fight it was.

The 23-year-old fired a 3-under par 68 to aggregate 15-under 269 at Kasumigaseki Country Club, with Nelly Korda of the US taking gold on 17-under 267.

It was that close.

Finishing behind the world no. 1 were Japan’s Mone Inami and Lydia Ko of New Zealand on 16-under 268s.

In the resultant silver-bronze play-off, which also eliminated Aditi, Inami took second place to secure Japan’s first-ever medal in golf.

Ko scripted her own share of history by becoming golf’s only multiple medallist at the Games, adding bronze to the silver she won in Rio 2016 behind Korea’s Inbee Park.

No consolation

None of this, of course would have come as any consolation to Aditi, who belied her 200th world ranking to push the world’s best till the very last hole.

“I didn’t really drive the ball very good and then it’s hard to get birdie putts or hit greens when you’re not in the fairway,” said Aditi later.

“That was definitely the hardest part to make a score,” added Aditi, who picked up golf when she was five.

“I didn’t leave anything out there, I think I gave it my hundred percent, but, yeah, fourth at an Olympics where they give out three medals kind of sucks.” 

All week, Aditi, who had her mother Maheshwari on the bag, was a picture of methodical confidence and calm.

She stayed in the medal hunt throughout the thrilling final round and had a couple of birdie chances to join the playoff, only to agonisingly miss putts on the 17th and 18th holes.

“Seventeen was perfect. I hit it exactly the speed I wanted, the line I wanted, I just – maybe I made too many (putts) through the four rounds.

“Almost like the golfing gods were like, okay, we’re not going to give her this one,” said Aditi, who led the Strokes Gained: Putting category with 13.01 strokes gained over the field throughout the week.

“I tried my best, even the last hole, although it was really out of range, it was almost a long putt, but I still tried to give it a chance.

“Gave it my best attempt. I mean I wanted to hole it and I gave my best attempt, it’s hard to force the issue when you’re like 30 feet away.”

Neeraj Chopra
India’s golden boy at Tokyo, Neeraj Chopra, celebrates his historic javelin gold medal on Saturday. Image courtesy Twitter.

Misfiring driver

An uncharacteristically wayward driver cost Aditi dear on the day as she hit only five fairways in the final round which stopped her from being more aggressive into the greens.

“The front nine I just hit one and I think the back nine I must have hit maybe a couple more, maybe three or four more.

“So that was bad today, kind of put me out of position so I couldn’t get close to the flag.

“I tried my best to hole the last few putts and just knowing because in a regular tournament whether you finish second or fourth it really doesn’t matter, no one cares.

“But at this event you need to be in the top three.”

Diksha Dagar finished T50 on 6-over 290. She said Aditi’s run was truly inspiring and would encourage young girls to pick up the sport.

“It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ll keep working hard to improve,” she said.

“Aditi had a very good week and I want to try and follow in her footsteps. This performance will certainly create more awareness for golf as not everybody in India knows about golf.”

Hoping for more

Aditi said she hoped her run in Tokyo would put a spotlight on the game at home, which by the reaction from the country’s leading politicians would have certainly made many sit up and take notice.

“I think it’s good, just even top 5 or top 10 at an Olympics is really good. Because you know that sport or that person has a medal chance.

“So just having more top finishes, even if it’s not exactly a podium finish, will maybe bring eyes to the sport and more support, more kids pick up more, whatever, that helps grow the game,” Aditi said.

“Obviously when I started golf, I never dreamt of being or contending at the Olympics, golf wasn’t even an Olympic sport. So sometimes you just pick it up and work hard and have fun every day and sometimes you get here.”

Indeed, on Saturday, Aditi Ashok emphatically announced her arrival at the highest level of women’s golf.

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