Indian golfers Anirban Lahiri and Aditi Ashok have already appeared at the 2016 Rio Olympics and both of them have also booked their tickets for the 2021 Tokyo Games. However, 30-year old Udayan Mane, who qualified after Argentine Emiliano Grillo withdrew, is set to make his debut at the Games.
Even though golf featured in the 1900 and 1904 editions of the Olympics, it was absent post that, before making a comeback after 112 years, at the 2016 Rio Games. Three Indian golfers - SSP Chawrasia, Anirban Lahiri, and Aditi Ashok - made the cut in the previous edition. However, none of them came close to competing for a medal. A similar number of athletes have also qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, with two of them set to appear for the second time. With four years of added experience, an improved show is expected from the golfers, even though a medal would be unrealistic.
Let us have a look at the Indian Golf Team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics:
Anirban Lahiri (Men's Event)
Born to an army doctor’s family, Anirban Lahiri was subject to constant transfers from one place to the other while growing up, owing to the nature of his father’s job. However, he had the privilege to access golf courses all along the way and even accompanied his father Tushar, who was a recreational golf player, to pick up balls for him. That was how Anirban developed a fondness for the sport and eventually took it up seriously, starting off with the sub-junior golf tournament in Kolkata, in 1998.
Idolizing the legendary Tiger Woods, who was at the peak of his career back then, the Pune-born golfer impressed in the junior circuit with his first win coming at the Asian Junior Team Championships in 2005. To escalate his game and initiate a step up to the next level, Anirban moved to Bengaluru in 2005 itself to train under Vijay Divecha. Following this, the golfer has enjoyed a handful of wins in the domestic amateur circuit, and also a silver medal win in the team event at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
One year later, in 2007, Anirban turned professional and marked his entry in the PGTI (Professional Golf Tour of India) and joined the Asian Gold Tour in 2008. In 2011, Anirban won his first continental tournament – the Panasonic Open. However, 2015 still remains to be the most memorable year for Anirban, as he claimed a top-finish at the Malaysian Open and also secured a top-five finish at the 2015 PGA Championship in Wisconsin, USA – becoming the first Indian to achieve the feat in a Major.
Anirban Lahiri qualified for the Olympics by clinching the 59th spot in the final Olympic Golf Rankings. With a disappointing 57th place finish at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Anirban would be aiming to better his record at the spectacle, when the event kicks off in Tokyo, later this month.
Udayan Mane (Men's Event)
The Indian golfer was a reserve behind Argentine Emiliano Grillo for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. But the South-American withdrew from the Games in the build-up to the event and paved the way for Udayan Mane’s qualification. However, the Indian waited anxiously until the final confirmation arrived. Mane is set to land in Tokyo as the 60th and last entrant in the men's event. The Bengaluru-based golfer is the second-highest Indian golfer, at the 356th spot and will make his Olympics debut later this month.
A good friend of Anirban, the golfer also learned the tricks and trade of the sport in Bengaluru itself, having turned professional back in 2015. Udayan is one of the most successful golfers on the PGTI in recent years and is an 11-time winner. He also holds the record for being the only rookie to have won two titles on the tour, back in 2015 itself. With the PGTI becoming a part of the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) in 2019, it has helped Udayan earn valuable ranking points in the past two years.
In fact, his stellar show in the recent past, which includes two wins in 2019 and three wins in 2020-21 in the tour has helped Udayan immensely to earn OWGR points and make his case strong for Olympic qualification. For a fact, the golfer has played in Japan before, during the 2014 Eisenhower Trophy, where he shot a 14-under and finished at the 13th spot. Hopefully, the experience would come in handy when he competes at the Men’s Individual event, which starts on July 29, in Tokyo.
Aditi Ashok (Women's Event)
Also hailing from the Southern metropolis of Bengaluru, Aditi Ashok was enthralled when she saw the lush green course at the Karnataka Golf Association, at the age of five. Paying a visit with his father one day was enough to hook her to the sport and eventually she started with the basics. The balancing act between academics and golf career was commendable as Aditi soon started featuring in local tournaments. Her first state-level win was at the 2011 Karnataka Junior and South Indian Junior Championships when she was only 13. She followed up with a National Amateur title later that year.
However, it was three consecutive junior national title wins in 2012, 2013, and 2014 that really gave her momentum to excel further. In fact, in 2014, she was also the senior national champion. Simultaneously, Aditi started taking strides in the international circuit, with her going on to feature at the 2013 Youth Asian Games, the 2014 Youth Olympics, and the 2014 Asian Games. Her biggest achievement still remains the win at the 2015 Ladies' British Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
Aditi turned pro in 2016, and later that year created history by becoming the first Indian female golfer to qualify for the Olympics. Facing a stiff competition in South America, she finished at the 41st spot, which was still a respectable outing for the then-teenager. Later that year, Aditi claimed her maiden LET (Let European Tour) title at the Indian Open and followed it up with the Qatar Open win, a week later. In 2017, she became India's first representative on the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) tour. With loads of experience under her belt, a much-improved display is expected at her second appearance at the Games.