In a country of more than a billion, women's golf is still taking baby steps --- there are less than 20 pros on the ladies' circuit. Against this backdrop, the buzz about the Hero Honda Women's Indian Open is interesting.
Smiles flashed and firm handshakes got exchanged at the DLF Golf & Country Club as the organisers took pride at how the Women's Golf Association of India (WGAI) had taken just four years to touch a prize sum of $300,000. The men's National Open took four decades (in 2004) to touch the mark.
Acquiring the Ladies European Tour's (LET) sanction, which makes it a tri-sanctioned effort, is commendable, but more than the "painstaking efforts" to get top players for the November 11-13 event, it is the timing that got players like Laura Davies and Lee-Anne Pace interested. Engaged in a battle to top the LET's Henderson Money List, a win for Lee-Anne, the current leader, could well settle the issue.
The South African was clear about her objectives. "I have a couple of decisions to make this week," she said. A favourable result would translate into journeying for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Q-School. If not, an appearance at the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters becomes mandatory.
Hailing from Mossel Bay, Lee-Anne has been on a roll, winning two of the three events in as many weeks. Laura's presence is daunting but her rival remains impervious. "She is an amazing player but I have faith in my abilities," said Lee-Anne.
Missing golf bags is disconcerting, but Laura is too seasoned a campaigner to let the mishap make her veer off the prescribed path. The Coventry player had a disappointing 45th at last week's Korean Ladies Masters, and a better finish beckons.
Sandwiched between the stalwarts is defending champion Phatlum Pornanong. The petite Thai, however, has her strategy ready. "There are lots of good players, but I am not going to think about it," she said.
The Indian challenge would hinge on Smriti Mehra and to an extent on the flashy but talented Sharmila Nicollet.
Simi, as she is known, has had a below-par season, but one can't ignore the surgery. The form might be iffy but the spirit stays indomitable. "I am a lioness, nothing's gonna stop me," she exclaimed, bringing the podgy arms together in a clap.