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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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From caddie to ace golfer - meet Ashok Kumar
May 16, 2007 - 10:20:10 AM
For Ashok, who idolises legendary American golfer Tiger Woods, qualifying for the Asian Tour this year will be a challenge.

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[RxPG] New Delhi, May 16 - Rags to riches stories have been hardly told in Indian golf, but the meteoric rise of Ashok Kumar who started as a caddie is just one such classic tale.

Ashok, 26, used to be a caddie in the Delhi Golf Club way back in 1989. Today he has already made his way to the top of the Order of Merit of the Professional Golf Tour of India - by winning four titles this season and is tipped to be the next big thing in Indian golf.

'I feel better now that I have raised my standards. I had to struggle a lot and given my background it has been a tough journey for me. But I have never lost hope,' a humble Ashok told IANS in an interview.

'I have always believed in hard work and not about the result.'

Ashok learned the game during his caddying days at the Delhi Golf Club and soon developed a game that saw him reign as India's national amateur No.1 from 1999 till 2001.

After turning professional in 2002, he showed his immense potential by winning 10 times on the Indian Tour. He ventured to Asia Tour in 2004 and secured his card from Qualifying School. In 2006, Ashok enjoyed two top-10s, finishing tied seventh in Pakistan and fifth in the Amby Valley Asian Masters in India where he was the halfway leader.

Born to a carpenter father, it wasn't smooth going for the golfer as earning money was the top priority from an early age.

'There was poverty and we were four brothers and it was quiet a big family for my father to feed. So I had to find a mode of income and that was how I became a caddie and entered the field of golf.

'A friend of mine was already working as a caddie in the Delhi Golf Club and he told me that there I could make some money on a daily basis. It was good enough for me as I needed to earn something for a living and support my family.'

'My love for golf started there and I used to play a bit when no one was around. After all we were caddies and we were not allowed to play,' recalled Ashok, who has never been to school.

Can you believe it - a golfer who has never been to school? So is this the changing face of golf in India?

'It is true that golf is still a game for the elite. But times are changing. Guys like me are coming and making a name on the basis of hard work,' said the golfer.

It was under Arjuna Awardee Amit Luthra that Ashok discovered himself and he is still grateful to the veteran golfer for all his achievements.

'I used to be his caddie earlier and till date he has been my biggest support. I wouldn't have achieved what I have if he were not behind me,' said Ashok, who has had earnings of Rs.4 million in the 2006-07 season.

Not one for setting long-term goals, he said, 'I set my target for each and everyday.

'Who has seen the future? In fact I have learnt this from the game itself. In golf you can plan your game beforehand for all the four days. We set goals everyday on the fairway and that is also how I set my goals as well,' he said.

For Ashok, who idolises legendary American golfer Tiger Woods, qualifying for the Asian Tour this year will be a challenge.

'Last year I missed the qualifying score by two shots. This year I will give my best and hopefully qualify for it,' he said.

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