by Brad Green
The Oates Vic Open holds special significance for Indian teenager Aditi Ashok.
Twelve months ago Aditi travelled to the 13th Beach Golf Links at Barwon Heads to make her professional debut and finished a respectable tied for 31st.
But it kick-started a remarkable season for Aditi on the Ladies European Tour which culminated in the 18-year-old being named Rookie of the Year after claiming back-to-back wins at the Hero Women’s Indian Open and Qatar Ladies Open.
She also represented India at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and tees up this week now ranked inside the top 100 women players in the world.
With dad Ashok caddying for her this week – he carried the bag when she won in Qatar – and mother Mash in the gallery, Aditi is excited about tackling the Oates Vic Open again and is aiming to become the third straight international player – and first from Asia – to win the title.
She arrives in Barwon Heads coming off a T6 finish at the RACV Gold Coast Challenge and said her experiences around the Bellarine Peninsula lay-out last year would hold her in good stead.
“Last year the wind was a big factor for me,” Aditi said. “Especially some of the headwind holes, I really didn’t score well on them.
“So this time, I’ve played two practice rounds on the Beach course and I’m going to play one on the Creek tomorrow and hopefully I’ll be able to manage the wind better.
“I’m hitting it a bit longer than I did last year so that should help.
“It was a good experience last year, being my first time here (in Australia) and hopefully I can do better than last year.
“I like the Beach (course) better because the greens are slightly better. But in general I like the layout of the Beach.”
Alongside her two wins, five top 10 finishes saw Aditi finish runner-up to American Beth Allen on the LET Order of Merit.
Allen is also teeing up at 13th Beach this week. It’s the first year that the Oates Vic Open is part of the LET schedule.
“I should be able to play some of the (women’s) majors this year so that should be interesting and I have a conditional card on the LPGA Tour so I’m going to try and play as much as I can,” Aditi said.
“I don’t know where I‘ll be for most of the year so we’ll see how it goes.”
For all her success in Europe last year, it was representing her country at the Olympic Games that remains the highlight of her campaign.
She finished 41st, but was in medal contention at the half-way mark after consecutive rounds of 68.
“When I found out that golf would be in the Olympics in 2012, that’s when I started working towards it,” she said.
“So having qualified for the Olympics and to have done so well the first two days was really good.
“I wish I had done better on the final two days, but the experience was something that I will always remember and one of the highlights of my season.”