“I, myself, didn’t even know anything about golf until about three years ago when I was invited by a parent of one of my gymnastic students to an amateur tournament as a guest. There, I was handed a golf club and asked to hit the ball, and strangely enough, the ball decided to fly so far and so straight that I was awarded the main prize for the longest drive. I even won a mini-golf tournament there. That was my first ever experience with golf. Someone then suggested that I was talented and should pursue it. I think I was a little stupid to trust because it’s not so easy,” she said.

From the age of four, she attended an Olympic school in Russia where she would practise gymnastics for up to nine hours a day. When she took up golf, she decided to apply the same dedication by moving to Orlando, Florida, and taking tuition at IMG’s David Leadbetter Golf Academy.

“I wanted to understand what golf is because in Russia it’s hard to see good golf. We don’t have very good players in Russia. There are only two golf courses. When I came to the USA I saw a lot of very good players and I understood how it works,” said the 1998-1999 World Champion.

“In gymnastics, you work different muscles, not like in golf. I started to go to the gym and have a lot of work outs. I didn’t eat meat before, just fish, and not regularly, more vegetables. I started to eat fish every day and then protein, because I don’t have it from meat. I don’t eat meat; sometimes chicken. I started to try chicken about one month ago. Before I was 48 kilogrammes, now it’s about 62. If I went back to gymnastics, they would say I’m very fat.”

Whilst working on her new, stronger physique at the gym recently, Shimanskaya bumped into Tiger Woods. She tells how she asked him, “Do you want to be an Olympic gold medallist in golf?” and he replied: “I’ll have to think about it.”

She said that she was amused to hear that golf has a chance to be included in the 2016 Olympic Games, although she is unlikely to win an Olympic gold in that discipline just yet.

She claims an average driving distance of 250 yards and score of two or three under par, not bad given that her scores were mostly in the 80s at LET Qualifying School earlier this year. Given her rate of progress, it would not be surprising to see Shimanskaya make the cut this week, but if not, she has another invitation to compete at the ABN AMRO Ladies Open in the Netherlands in a fortnight’s time.