Published: 12th October 2019
How Avani Prashanth became India's youngest golf pro and is putting like a champ
Junior Amateur golfer, Avani Prashanth and her father speak about how her outstanding performances led her to get a scholarship from the Virat Kohli Foundation
Avani Prashanth was on cloud nine when she received the three-year scholarship from the Virat Kohli Foundation. Kudos, Avani! But are you wondering who Avani is? She is one of the Junior Amateur golfers in India whom you will find representing country in almost every international golf tournament. She participated in 100 tournaments and won over 88 trophies, all before her 13th birthday.
It all started when Avani told her father M S Prashanth that she wanted to play golf. While her father was unsure if she really wanted to play the sport, he was surprised to see her eye-hand coordination and the way she would swing the club. Being a golfer himself and being trained by coach Nathan Sundaram, Prashanth realised what the next step was in her journey, "I took Avani to Nathan and requested him to train her too, but he was reluctant. I requested him to watch her play and then decided. Observing her eye-hand coordination and proficiency, he decided to teach her and the journey began."
In 2012, Avani made her debut in international tournaments in the Kids Golf International tournament held at Abuja, Nigeria. "I was only six years old when I won the tournament. That victory gave me a chance to participate in the US Kids European Championship in Scotland. Though I stood third in this tournament, my perspective and that of my father's changed towards the game. We realised the potential I had and decided to invest more time into practice and improving my skills," she says.
Golf prodigy: Currently, Avani is being trained by Laurence Brotheridge of David Leadbetter academy in Pune (Pic: M S Prashanth)
So, how'd she win the scholarship?
Before we answer that question, let's first tell you about the Virat Kohli Foundation. Started in 2013, the foundation is a charity set up by Virat Kohli to provide sports scholarships to deserving children who would otherwise get lost in the system. In the last year alone, she has played eight Indian Golf Union tournaments — she has won six of them and placed second and third in the other two. It was a combination of these tournaments and the 2019 US championship, where she stood third might have helped fetch her the much-deserved scholarship.
Fitness is key for a golfer
There are many factors that play an important role when it comes to golfing. According to Avani, there should be better eye-hand coordination. A golfer should have their own process of playing a good shot. And whether the shot is good or bad, the golfer must accept it and move ahead. Even the coach stresses the same point of being disciplined and following a self-styled process to play shots. Apart from this, like every sportsperson, a golfer must be fit because they spend five hours at a stretch out on the golf course. So, diet is also key to get enough nutrition and stamina.
All rounder: Apart from being a golfer, Avani is the best soccer player and she leads her school's under 12 girls soccer team
Another important factor is choosing the right club to play. Most of the parents choose either a men's or women's club and cut it to match the height of the child. Prashanth says, "The good clubs are made for adults, keeping a certain height and weight in mind. When you shorten the length of the club, it brings imbalance in the child's learning to play. There is a brand called US Kids which custom makes clubs as per the height and proficiency of the child. When it comes to proficiency, they check the speed of the child's swing. If the speed of swinging is 60 miles per hour, then the children are suggested to buy tool series clubs, and if the speed is less than 60, then they are suggested to buy ultralight clubs and the like."
Practice makes perfect
As it is imperative for Avani to balance her studies and her passion for golf, her father has bought her the Game Changer, equipment that helps her practise every day at home. It shows the scores and also indicates what has to be improved. Apart from this, they have taken permission from school to practice on Thursdays and Fridays. Yes, she attends school only three days a week and practices on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Currently, she's practising either at Eagleton The Golf Resort or Karnataka Golf Association. When we ask her how she catches up on her studies during the rest of the days, she says, "My teachers and principal at Greenwood High School have always been supportive. After my practice hours, I ensure that I catch up on my studies. In fact, I even got a General Proficiency certificate from my school for balancing my studies and golf."
Top 5 finish’s at the US Kids Golf World Championships at Pinehurst, North
2014 – Top 3 - Girls 7 and Under
2015 – Top 4 - Girls 8
2016 – Top 5 - Girls 9
2019 – Top 3 – Girls 12
Top 5 finish’s at the US Kids European Golf Championship at Gullane, Scotland
2016 – Top 2 - Girls 9
2017 – Top 3 - Girls 10
2018 – Top 5 - Girls 11
In May 2019, she won the Golmuri Golf Club, Jamshedpur by a margin of 23 strokes and in one of the IGU tournaments in JP Golf Course in Noida, she won by a margin of 16 strokes