Teenager Aditi Ashok becomes first Indian woman to win on European Tour

    Eighteen-year-old Aditi Ashok has been playing golf since the age of five

    Story highlights

    • Aditi Ashok is first Indian to win on Ladies European Tour
    • 18-year-old took up sport aged five, only finished school in April

    (CNN)As India hosted a Ladies European Tour golf tournament in 2007, a nine-year-old girl from the host city of Bangalore walked the course with ever-expanding dreams.

    The little girl watched in amazement as she followed Gwladys Nocera of France and British legend Laura Davies with a sense of wonder.
      "They were names that I had only heard of but to be able to watch them do what they love -- and to know that I could do that too if I worked hard -- was inspiring," the girl, now 18, told CNN.
      Today, Aditi Ashok has become a role model herself -- even though she is in the fledgling years of his career.
      Many Indian newspapers on Monday featured pictures of Ashok who, on Sunday, became the first Indian to ever win a European Ladies Tour title.
      She did so when winning the Hero Women's Indian Open in the northern Indian city of Gurgaon.
      In the process, she became the first home winner of the event and solidified her astonishing start to life as a rookie, with her maiden title coming after four straight top 10 finishes.
      "This is the first time I was playing my home event as a professional -- I had played it five years as an amateur -- so to be able to win that in my rookie year feels pretty good," she explained.
      "The reaction has been pretty big. I was on the front page of quite a few newspapers, so that was a pleasant surprise."

      Early starter

      Ashok may only have left school in April but she already boasts 13 years of golfing experience -- having taken up the sport at the tender age of five.
      "My parents and I started golf together because we all wanted to do something as a family," says Ashok, an only child.
      "We used to eat breakfast every weekend at a restaurant that overlooks a golf course -- the Karnataka Golf Association in Bangalore.
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      "One day, we just walked into the course and I started putting because it looked easy for a kid to learn -- and I found that really fun.
      "Because of that, I wanted to come back and learn all parts of the game and I really liked the fact that golf was different every day."
      Four years later, Ashok was contesting India's junior tour.
      Eight years after starting out, the then 13-year-old was India's national amateur champion -- a contest open to all ages.
      With a maturity that belies her tender years and a single-minded attitude to the sport she loves, Ashok has the potential to inspire the next generation of Indian girls.
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      "Next year, my goal is to qualify for the LPGA -- and after that, I want to play for many years," she added.
      "I want to be in the Golf Hall of Fame and I think if I could do that, I would have had a pretty good career.
      "I'm sure that would also help the popularity of golf in India, for girls who want to play the sport, so that would be my goal.
      "Of course, that all happens on the side. I just have to keep playing good golf and hopefully if I do, that will allow girls to pick up the game a lot easier than I did."

      Family affair

      If playing golf was designed to give the Ashoks a joint task, it has succeeded beyond all expectations.
      Aditi's mother, a former radio DJ, is now her manager while her father, who runs a real estate business, often caddies for her.
      He did so at the Olympics in Rio when Ashok -- the youngest contestant in the field -- shot to prominence when being among the leading eight players after the opening two rounds.
      "It was a goal of mine to play in the Olympics when golf was announced as a sport there," she recalled.
      "I played really well the first two days. It was great for me."
      Although she has no sponsor backing her financially, Ashok has been employing a golf coach (Australia's Steven Giuliano) and fitness trainer (Frenchman Nicolas Cabaret) for the last few years.
      In that time, she has been crowned India's National Junior Champion three times and National Amateur Champion twice.
      The final word goes to one of the players she beat on Sunday -- with Ashok birdieing the 18th to finish one stroke ahead of American Brittany Lincicome and Spaniard Belen Mozo.
      "I had a great battle today with Aditi. She's a great player," said Mozo.
      "I'm proud and happy for India that an Indian girl won. I congratulate her.
      "We'll see her more in the future, that's for sure."