Professional golfer Sharmila Nicollet talks to Youth Inc about her colourful career, fitness, modelling, and of course, golf
What inspired you to take up golf? Did you feel an instant love for the game?
I am a sportsperson at heart. I was a state level swimmer and an athlete, but once I started playing golf I immediately fell in love with it. It is very challenging both mentally and physically which intrigued me. I love the ambience of a golf course, the sophistication and class of golfers, and the longevity that comes with it. I can play golf for as long as I wish to. All of these factors made me choose golf and I haven’t regretted that decision one bit.
At such a young age you have a list of remarkable achievements; do you now feel the pressure to persistently perform?
I love the pressure that comes with it; it enhances my game in so many ways. I do yoga, I meditate and also consult with my sports psychologist. All of which helps me cope with the pressure of the sport.
You won your first golf tournament at the age of 15. Can you describe how you felt at that moment?
It was like an aha moment for me – that’s when I realised golf can be my future and I decided to take up golf as a serious profession from that moment onwards.
Do you ever feel intimidated by the older and more experienced players you compete with?
Initially it was a bit intimidating – but the beauty of golf is that your primary competitor is yourself. While there is a head-to-head happening and a leaderboard, most of golf is played in the mind. You are pretty much on your own on the golf course and you stop bothering about what others are doing.
What do you feel golf has taught you?
Golf has taught be to be humble and has also taught me a thing or two about being responsible.
How has life changed since becoming a sports celebrity?
I never had a normal friend circle, teenage, school or college life. I was always travelling and had to sacrifice an ordinary teenager’s school life to pursue it privately after 8th grade. However, I was as good academically as I was on the golf course. Hence it was a tough decision for me to not pursue higher studies. Instead I turned pro at the age of 18. I was into other sports as well, but they had to take a backseat to prevent risk of injuries that could affect my golf. One has to sacrifice in order to achieve something, especially in sports, and I’m used to it.
What was it like being brought up by parents who come from two absolutely different cultures? Which culture do you feel closer to?
I feel close to both. Having been brought up here in India, I have orthodox ethics. My food habits, however, are very French.
You pursue a parallel career in modelling as well. Does that change people’s perception of you as a serious golf player? How do you react to such remarks, if any?
I have never modelled professionally, nor do I intend to. The only modelling assignments that I have done are part of my sponsor commitments – and I have sponsors because of my golfing achievements. I will never lose sight of that. I am a professional golfer – nothing else comes even close.
There are major discrepancies between men and women’s golf. Do you feel this gap can be bridged?
There is a mismatch in the level of the men’s tour and the ladies’ tour in terms of number of tournaments, media coverage, prize money and general profile. We therefore have to work that much harder to gain the same amount of recognition and respect as men do. However, it is changing; a few other girls and I from India have the opportunity to perform well internationally, which, I think will encourage young girls to take up golf. We now also have top quality events like the Hero Women’s Indian Open coming into India; it will surely help the growth of the game.
The future of golf in India
I think golf has a great future in our country. Of course cricket is like a religion and you cannot compare the two. But as far as golf is concerned, the only things our country lack are sponsors and infrastructure – the number of golf courses, the driving ranges not only for professionals but also for the public so everyone gets an equal opportunity to understand and showcase their talents. Indian golfers have consistently delivered good performance at both domestic and international events. People can and have begun to look at the sport as a career option and with the inclusion of golf in the 2016 Summer Olympics, this country has a bright future.
What is your advice for aspiring sport professionals?
Dream big, dream to be number one and aim for the sky. Work and practice hard to attain precision, consistency, accuracy and perseverance to achieve those dreams. If I can do it, so can you!
Your ideal golf partner
Maha Haddioui and Nikki Ponnappa
When you aren’t playing golf you are…
A professional goal you wish to achieve soon
Win in Europe and reach my ultimate level in fitness.
If not a golfer you would be…
What is your highest achievement till now?
Asian Games and participating in the Ladies European Tour.
Volume 4 Issue 4