She swoons to Shah Rukh Khan’s moves, digs James Bond films but what makes her different from most 21-year-olds is that it is only on the fairways that Neha Tripathi really has a swinging time. For that she has her father, Digvijay Singh and Jyoti Randhawa to thank.
Tripathi is leading the Order of Merit in the Women’s Golf Association of India’s (WGAI) Pro Tour after winning three out of six tournaments. “If I hadn’t been playing golf, I would have surely played tennis,” said the Kolkata girl one week after winning her third pro-tour title in Panchkula.What started by following her father, who is in the army, to the greens is now a full-time occupation. "People, including my father were a little surprised when I said I would play golf as a professional. But Diggy bhaiyya and Jyoti bhaiyya told my father I had to do it," said Tripathi, who turned pro four years ago.
“The last three years I finished either third or fourth. But that now I have finally topped it, it really feels special,” she said. That she is above Smriti Mehra, a veteran in this circuit and the only Indian to have participated in the Ladies PGA Tour, makes the feat that much sweeter. But Tripathi was quick to point out the influence Mehra has had over the younger generation.
The Simi effect
“While being extremely competitive, Simmidi also ensures we are not under any pressure. She is a very experienced player but is always at hand to help us even with little things,” said Tripathi. “She has broadened our vision by being the first Indian to play the LPGA.”
Among peers there is Sharmila Nicolette who has recently qualified for the European Tour. “By qualifying for the European Tour, Sharmila has shown a way. We know that if she can, we can too. It’s people like Sharmila and Simmidi who keep us going,” said Tripathi.
Keeping it going
“My biggest test is the European Tour Qualifying School in Morocco this December. I also need to see where I stand in the Asian Tour events. And then there’s of course the Olympics. That has made us all very excited,” said Tripathi. It’s hard work stoking the excitement though.”Frankly, golf takes away six of the seven days in my week. The one day I get I try and sleep as much as possible,’ said Tripathi.
Such a regimen also makes it impossible for Tripathi to lead the life of a normal youngster.
“But I’m taking it seriously. I have given myself another 4-5 years. Hopefully, by then I should be something,” said the girl bent on proving that she isn’t just another pretty face on the greens.