Glamour golfer Sharmila Nicollet wants overseas titles to satisfy her fan base
Indian star is a celebrity in her homeland and is hoping to justify her popularity with victory at the Hong Kong Ladies Open
Golf is a game of numbers, and with nearly 245,000 followers on Twitter, Sharmila Nicollet is one of the most popular female professionals in the realm of social media.
But while the Indian can be justifiably satisfied by her sizeable fan base, there is one number she is desperate to change at this week’s US$150,000 Hong Kong Ladies Open: her international wins total, which currently reads as zero.
“Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities in the world and the Hong Kong Ladies Open is one of my favourite tournaments of the year – to win an event as prestigious as this would be a real game changer for both me and Indian golf,” said the 25-year-old Nicollet, who in 2012 became the youngest player from her country to qualify for the Ladies European Tour.
Nicollet’s following is easy to fathom. Routinely featured in celebrity and fashion magazines in her homeland, as well as in online rankings of the game’s most beautiful players, the Bangalore native is an impressive athlete.
In her teens, Nicollet was a state-level swimmer, collecting 72 medals in regional and national meets before she turned her attention to golf full-time, making the transition from amateur to pro at the age of 19.
One of the longer hitters on tour, Nicollet, who has won over a dozen times in India, is planning to use her length to overpower the venerable Old Course at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
“It’s a great golf course, narrow in parts and definitely challenging, but it does fit my eye,” said Nicollet, who goes out in Friday’s first round alongside Hong Kong amateur Michelle Cheung. “I think I can take advantage of the par-5s, which are all in range for me and hopefully I can make a lot of birdies. The scoring should be pretty low.”
Nicollet finished last year’s inaugural Hong Kong Ladies Open in a share of 32nd place but her challenge was hampered by a shoulder injury. Returning pain-free, the tall Nicollet can’t wait to get the tournament underway.
“It’s my first international event for a while, so it’s going to be interesting but also very exciting,” she continued. “The facilities and hospitality at the Hong Kong Golf Club are fantastic ... to win would be a dream. It would create a lot of attention back home and get people motivated.
“My hope is that golf grows and becomes more and more popular. Becoming the first Indian woman professional to win overseas would help that.”