Rags- to- Riches story of Ashok kumar, who is a Professional Golfer of India.
Ashok Kumar, one of the country’s leading golfers who rose from the ranks of a caddie, remembers his very humble beginnings very distinctly. “The reason I am here in this swanky restaurant of the Oberoi, sipping coffee with you is because of golf. It has brought me name, fame and money and all that I could possibly ask for in life. Without golf, I am a zero ,” said the 27-year-old golfer with rare candour in a chat with Kalyan Ashok, a sports journalist working with Sportstar, one of India’s leading sports weeklies.
India’s No.3 golfer may not exactly be rolling in luxury at the moment, but he definitely leads a comfortable life-a far cry from the days when he used to sleep in a stable. “It’s destiny that brought me to this stage in life and I can’t sav that I deserve it, but it’s God’s gift to me through golf, sald Ashok. Not the one to forget his past, Ashok Kumar keeps reminding himself how he came up in life.
His story is stranger than fiction. Ashok was born into a poor family in Bihar that struggled to make both ends meet. (He has four brothers and two sisters.) In 1988, his parents sent him away with his elder brother to Delhi and he worked as an errand boy at the Jaipur Polo Club.
“I used to work in the day assisting my brother and sleep in the stable at night. The club also had the Air Force golf course and I wandered on to it one day and watched the players and caddies. I thought of becoming a caddie, but I was too young then. I did not get the job, but the club hired me a few years later,” recalls Ashok. It was then that he took to golf. He started practising in the club when no one was around. However, he was caught playing one day and was suspended from his job, as caddies were not allowed to practise golf.
“I was back to square one. Then I went away to help a lorry owner who was transporting sand. I remember the days when I had to pay five rupees to hire a blanket during winter and sleep in Connaught Place,” Ashok said wistfully.
Six months later, when things cooled down, he moved back to the Air Force golt course and became a caddie to Amit Luthra, who was India’s top golfer and an Asian Games gold medallist. “Luthra saab spoke to the club authorities and got me in,” Ashok said with gratitude writ large on his face.
Ashok learnt a lot from Luthra and one day he challenged his mentor to a play-of “I don’t know what got into my head and I told him that I will beat him, to which Luthraji said that if I did that he would waive a month’s caddie fee. We played on the road, but I lost,” Ashok smiled.
Luthra, however, was very impressed with the young man’s talent and got him enrolled at the Delhi Golf Club, which allowed caddies to play. Seizing this opportunity with both hands, Ashok went on to improve his game by leaps and bounds and in 1995, DGC selected him to play in the All India Junior tournament in Kolkata.
“I didn’t know where Kolkata was. I thought it was outside the country! I travelled in an unreserved compartment, spending most of the time sitting in the bathroom or just outside as there was no place elsewhere.” In Kolkata, he finished third and in the next two years he became the Junior Champion of the country. In 2000, he moved to the amateur ranks and two years later he became a pro, finishing his first season as India’s No.5 golf player. Riding a wave of success, Ashok held the No.1 spot in 2006 and 2008 and currently (2010) he is ranked No.3.
The moment he cherishes the most as a player is not the time when he won his first major title but when he finished 18th in the Hero Honda-DLF Tournament in 2002. It fetched him a cheque of Rs. 1 lakh. “I never looked back after that,”Ashok remarked.
In the early part of 2010, Ashok’s golfing career got a boost when the Bangalore- based business and software company, Kaseya India, run by golf enthusiast, Mr. Girish Krishnamurthy, decided to sponsor him. “I am a simple guy and with Kaseya around to take care of other things, I can concentrate better on my game now,” Ashok says with determination as well as gratitude. It is his ardent wish that all golf links in the country should support caddies, as he feels that many of them have a lot of inherent talent simply waiting to be tapped.
Ashok has modelled his game on his golfing idol, Tiger Woods. Incidentally, he had met Tiger when he was a caddie to Arjun Atwal in Bangkok a decade ago. “He hugged me when he was introduced by Atwal as a top amateur from India. I asked him for his advice, to which the legendary golfer simply said-‘don’t think of beating others, they should think of beating you,” Ashok’s eyes sparkled when he recalled his meeting with Tiger.
He faithfully follows that advice from the maestro and hopes to play with him one day. “For the moment, I eat, drink and sleep golf. There’s no distraction in my life. I relax with some music and watch CDs of Tiger Woods,” Ashok concluded.