Sharmila Nicolett brings to the range tonnes of confidence, colour, and a positive attitude. The young golfer tells Catherine Rhea Roy that she's now headed to the European Tour

While eavesdropping on two colleagues swapping fun facts, one had mentioned that the leading cause of death on the golf course was being struck by lightning. To which the other replied, “Oh, I took for granted that it was boredom.” On acres and acres of green punctuated by stodgy and staid, keep an eye out for the glinting blot of shocking pink or searing orange – introducing ace golfer, Sharmila Nicolett who brings the colour and her game to the course.

Although golf happened much later, she was already growing up as an athlete, “I was into swimming, basketball and riding, before golf happened, which ironically was much later. I started at the age of 11, and by 14 I played my first tournament, which I won by 15 shots, and since then, there has been no looking back.”

She had never looked at sports as a career option, not in the beginning at least, “Athletics and swimming were not going anywhere, it was only when I saw that golf could be something I would be really good at that I decided to take it up, and it went from being a fun thing to do to an amateur career. The game is difficult and challenging, and at least 60 percent of it depends on strategy and planning.”

The pressures have been intense and the road this far has not been easy, she says, “I have had to represent the country at such a young age and that comes with a fair share of recognition and rejection. It becomes difficult to handle the pressures that come with it.”

Her French lineage has been much talked about; she laughs it off, “It's just a little hype. My father is French but my mother is Indian and all my life I have lived in India, and nothing changes that. I have family in Paris and I go there frequently but India will always be home. May be later I might have a base in London or Paris for the sake of golf but the focus is America because the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) is the goal.” She doesn't speak too much French, “I am not really a linguist, I can speak a little of most languages, my mother speaks better French than I do.”

The LPGA, which is an American organisation for female professional golfers is the larger picture and everything else are feathers in her hat which will help her realise that dream, “The LPGA is a whole different ball game, I have to go there with a great game and am hoping to be prepared for it in the next two years.”

Sharmila has been modelling as a child and later quit when golf started taking up most of her time, she says, “I am not really so keen about ramp modelling, but if it is for golf I don't mind. I represent the sport and like to bring the glam quotient to the sport. I like to look good, I like colours and I like taking time out to dress up. May be later I might even look at starting a fashion line.”

“It does not bother me that people talk about the way I dress, or my attitude to the sport, it is a very different mindset here that stems from a culture that we are rooted in. At some point people will talk and all I have to do is take all that, put it away and prove them wrong with my game.”

In comparison with other countries, in India golfers face a serious lack of infrastructure, “There is no full fledged driving range here and the one in Bangalore is very small, although the weather here is great for the game.” Sharmila is now the only Indian on the European tour, “It is a lot of pressure, but I have a country backing me and it feels so good.”

While women in the sport have risen in popularity over the past six years, the sport has been owned by the men for over 40 years now. It explains why women find it more challenging to find sponsors, although it does not justify it. “It is not lucrative, but we do have a few sponsors who have been showing interest. It is also my responsibility to encourage women to take up the sport and give it a face lift.”

“I have played amateur and professional golf, represented the country on several foreign forums, worked my way up to India No. 1, I have been associated with several top notch sporting companies, am decent looking and have a great history with sports and yet it is difficult for me to find sponsorship, but now that I have been given the European Tour card, people have started taking me seriously.”