Given her form, Smriti Mehra will be dashing across continents this season. But back home, “unparliamentary conduct” during a Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) tournament has dealt a blow to the top lady pro's reputation.
Members at the Noida Golf Course (NGC), which hosted the 9th leg of the women’s professional tour, claim she misbehaved with club officials and it led to her being disqualified.
Recounting the incident prior to the practice round on January 27, a NGC member, requesting anonymity, told HT, “Being a small driving range, there is a restriction on the longest club one can hit. Simi (as she’s also known) wanted to hit a driver. We allowed her but after a while she picked up some balls and moved towards the chipping green.
"This is against rules and as a range attendant stopped her, she began abusing the club. She threw back the balls but one of them hit a member. On the club secretary’s insistence, Simi returned. Her apology was, ‘I didn’t mean to hit you, I was just returning the balls. It seems the members here have an attitude problem.’ Following this, the member filed a written complaint to our tournament committee, which was forwarded to the WGAI committee and she was disqualified.”
Smriti, who has a conditional card on the LPGA Tour and secured a Ladies European Tour card last month, could not be contacted as she's away playing in Australia.
Champika Sayal, secretary general, WGAI, while admitting to the player having “problems” with the club management, termed the offensive behaviour as “exaggerated”. “Like all pros, Simi had a practice schedule and needed space to warm up, but she could not. After so many surgeries, she couldn’t afford another one. Besides being small, construction is on at the driving range, which made it difficult. She gathered a few balls and started for the chipping green, barely 30 yards away. After being stopped, she even apologised,” said Sayal.
“We fined her Rs 1000, but the club's stand that the WGAI disqualified her is wrong. It was forced on us after the NGC threatened not to let the tour go on if Simi teed-off,” she added.
Chairman of the WGAI championship committee, V.S. Singh’s account was similar to Sayal’s. “The disqualification was forced on us. The member had complained that the ball had merely rolled towards him. I even made Simi apologise and promised to look into the matter after she finished her round, but top club officials stayed adamant.”