Asian Games opens the door for pros

Diksha Dagar

2021 Olympian pro Diksha Dagar could contend for a spot on the Asian Games Team

The Asian Games has decided to follow the Olympic Games allowing professional golfers to compete potentially setting-up a selection headache for the Indian Golf Union (IGU).

Golf has been part of the Asian Games since 1982, when India won the men’s team and  individual gold medals in Delhi. Up To now only amateur golfers have been eligible for the event. At the 2022 Asian Games, to be held September 10 to 25 in Hangzhou, China, professionals are now eligible for selection.

According to sources, there is no stipulation as to how many pros and how many amateurs a country must select. A country could select only professionals for it’s men’s and women’s teams, or only amateurs, or some combination of the two.

Korea, for example, has said they will pick two professionals and two amateurs for its men’s team, and one professional and two amateurs for it’s women’s team.

Since the ranking lists for pros and amateurs are different, it becomes complicated to select a team. From an Indian perspective, on the men’s side, the professionals have the clear advantage. Players such as PGA Tour regular Anirban Lahiri, the currently hot Shubhankar Sharma and other PGTI pros are streets ahead of the best amateur golfers in the country.

On the women’s side which will consist of 3 players, there is little doubt that LPGA regular and Tokyo Olympic sensation Aditi Ashok, is the obvious No. 1 pick for India. She is followed in the world rankings by Tvesa Malik, who had considerable success in 2021 playing the Ladies European Tour. 

However, the 3rd spot could be wide open. You have Nishtha Madan, who has 5 Cactus Pro Tour wins in Arizona, Anika Varma, who has had a standout amateur season in America. There are several girls playing the Hero WPGT in India with strong records as well as Diksha Dagar who is set to renew her European Tour campaign this march. 

Among amateurs,  Avani Prashanth is the reigning  All-India Women’s champion and is the first Indian to be invited to play in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championships. The 15-year-old Prashanth has also won twice on the Hero WGPT tour, proving that she can compete against, and beat, home-grown professionals. Though still a teenager, she could well be India’s third-best women’s player.

Had the Asian Games continued with its amateurs only policy, Prashanth would have been the first name on the women’s team sheet.

Obviously, India should field the strongest teams it can, which is why it remains to be seen how the team will be composed. In any case, selection criteria and team compositions need to be publicly announced as soon as possible so players can plan their tournament schedules accordingly. 

Delays on announcements could lead to heartburn for all the youngsters concerned, a messy situation that no one wants.

Photo – LET Flickr

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