What’s an athlete without a mission? Avani Prashanth found hers early on and that was a head start over the competition. At 14, when amateur golfers her age are finding their feet, Avani is well on her way to “living a dream” and “inspired as she is to help make golf big in India”.
From winning on the pro tour, among other landmarks on the Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI), to success on the football field, Avani has seen it all. “I was one of the best players in the school football team and our team won many tournaments. I was chosen to play for the Bangalore Football Club in 2018,” says Avani.
In the quest for excellence, her journey has been about setting high standards and following them to the hilt. In this endeavour, her father, M S Prashanth, has been the guiding light. “When I look back at what has got me this far, I am reminded of my father’s ground rules as I was growing up. They were; I had to be better than the boys around me, hit it longer than them, run faster and kick a soccer ball as hard as them. Essentially, it was critical to give 100% to whatever we agreed upon towards becoming a better golfer,” she affirms.
These ethics found reflection from the time her golfing journey began at three. Success came early “as I played my first US Kids Golf tournament in Abuja, Nigeria, and qualified to play at the US Kids Golf European Championship in Scotland in 2013. The following year in 2014, we went back to Scotland and qualified for the US Kids Golf World Championship at Pinehurst, where I finished top-3 in girls 7 and under”. “Father was my caddy and we made a great team,” she says.
Along the way, the support system got stronger with the coming on board of Avani’s first coach Nathan Sundaram, then Abdul Rahim KH under the guidance of Vijay Divecha and now Laurence Brotheridge and fitness experts Vinod and Deckline Leitao now. The faces working tirelessly behind the scene may have changed but that had no bearing on the frequency with which the trophies piled up from across the Atlantic and in India — the best performing Indian girl at the US Kids European and World Championship in its 20-year history, order of merit leader in Indian Golf Union tournaments and order of merit winner in South Zone tournaments.
The coming on board of Laurence in 2018 was a turning point as “he has inspired me to change many things in my swing so I can play like the Champions”. Success demands sacrifice, and for Avani that has meant giving up on her love for soccer. “I was advised by my fitness coach (Deckline) not to play soccer for fear of injury and that could obstruct my growth as a golfer. I gave up soccer but have worked hard to be one of the fittest girls on tour.”
The lockdown last year had no bearing as most aspects of Avani’s growth as a golfer, be it fitness, nutrition, mental conditioning or golf, all of them went on unhindered. Avani says, “My father always finds a way for me to continue to practice and grow as a golfer.”
From October last, the milestones have come thick and fast. Her first World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) event win in Bengaluru gave her the ticket to play WGAI tournaments. In seven starts till March, there have been a string of best amateur awards. The icing has been the overall title in Mumbai earlier this year as the second youngest winner ever on Tour.
The spurt in results have led Avani to grow as a “player physically, mentally and golf-wise”. Ranked 376 in WAGR, the next target is to break into the top 100 in the World Amateur Rankings.