Aditi Ashok's popularity could lead to LPGA event in India

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Aditi Ashok's popularity could lead to LPGA event in India

LPGA Tour

Aditi Ashok's popularity could lead to LPGA event in India

LOS ANGELES – Aditi Ashok spun a sand wedge back into the hole for eagle from 82 yards on the par-4 14th at Wilshire Country Club, but fans in her native India could only follow via the scorecard. Ashok, the second Indian player to earn status on the LPGA, believes she has the game to win at the highest level. It comes down to putting four rounds together, she said.

“I know I’m good enough to be here,” said Ashok, who sits six back of Jin Young Ko and Moryia Jutanugarn heading into the final round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.

The LPGA’s return to the Los Angeles market, on an old-school gem of a track like Wilshire, is a victory for commissioner Mike Whan. The crowds, the weather, the enthusiasm from the players about being here and playing this course, point toward potential long-term success, assuming the sponsor feels likewise. Finding a smart balance between domestic and international events on the LPGA is a key component of Whan’s job. There undoubtedly is a sweet spot.

But when an impressive trailblazer like Ashok comes around, it’s natural to wonder if an LPGA stop in India isn’t too far away. Ashok is a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, including the 2016 Hero Women’s Indian Open. After she found herself in contention at the 2016 Rio Olympics, media coverage back home in Bangalore and all over India grew substantially.

While she’s only had one top 10 on the LPGA to date, multiple organizations from India have already reached out to the LPGA in the past 12 months about staging an event. In fact, an LPGA official will be traveling to India in the next two months to explore the potential.

The issue right now on the LPGA isn’t about a lack of interest in new events, particularly those overseas, it’s about having room on the calendar to accommodate them in a way that makes sense. Two Asian countries, which would be new to the LPGA schedule, are ready to sign now, if a date comes available.

“You’ve seen players from Korea, China, Taiwan, New Zealand,” said Ashok, “literally a player from those countries came and started doing well and people from that country wanted to spend money. I’m sure it’s a possibility, but golf has to grow a lot in India.”

Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng, Lydia Ko – the list of top players who have brought LPGA events to their countries for the first time is an impressive one. Ashok, a mature, level-headed 20-year-old, learned a great deal in her first year on tour and feels she’s close to a break-through moment.

For India, a country with a population of 1.3 billion, even a small ripple can make a lasting impact. Ashok is one of those rare players who has the ability to do something special.

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