Sharmila Nicollet, India’s youngest woman golfer to qualify for the Ladies European Tour. In Chennai, as a brand ambassador for the Audi Quattro Cup, she takes time off to chat about her passion for the game, her love for fashion and her future goals

A handful of golfers relax at the first tee in a makeshift tent at the Madras Gymkhana Club annexe after a gruelling first day of the Audi Quattro Cup amateur golf tournament. Among the many men enjoying a drink or two, a smart young woman sporting pink trousers and T-shirt busy signing autographs, catches the eye.

She is none other than Sharmila Nicollet, India’s youngest woman golfer to qualify for the Ladies European Tour (LET). In Chennai, as a brand ambassador for the tournament, Sharmila speaks candidly about her life, passion, desires, breakthroughs and her goals.

When I start the interview, I ask the 21-year-old golf pro from Bangalore whether being beautiful is a distraction when one is serious about pursuing golf. She replies with a smile, “I love fashion, loud colours, dogs and modified cars. I love my personality. I enjoy my non-golfing activities. I think I can be a huge inspiration for today’s youngsters.”

Achiever all the way

While her achievements speak for themselves — youngest Indian golfer to qualify for LET, second Indian to earn a full card on the LET, awarded ‘Professional Player of the Year’ by Women’s Golf Association of India in 2010 and No.1 in Order of Merit in the season 2010-11 — it’s her looks and craziness off the course that have made her such a popular and colourful personality.

Her whacky statements on online forums offer glimpses of her true personality. A sample on Twitter: “Girls eyebrows look like the Nike sign these days” and “My level of sarcasm has reached a point where I don’t even know if I’m kidding or not anymore.”

But she is serious when she expresses her feelings about being the youngest Indian to qualify for LET held in Spain, last year. “It was unbelievable,” says Sharmila, daughter of an Indian mother and a French father. “I was the lone Indian among three to qualify. I realised that playing at an International level is a different ball game. The competition was intense, the players top class and the weather difficult.”

The Bangalore lass found that playing alone abroad in LET was no fun. “I broke down quite a few times. I was de-motivated being alone. Every country has one or two golfers in a tournament. It is gruelling on a tour and lonely being the only Indian. I hope many Indians reach higher levels,” she says, adding, “I became tired playing too many tournaments. I will be selective from now on. I am now into yoga and nutrition and am very fit.”

Having qualified for the second time for the LET this year, Sharmila is more responsible and aware of what needs to be done to improve her game and rankings. “I need to improve my approach shots and putting,” she says matter-of-factly. “I am keen to get into the top 40 in the world. Winning a tournament this year will be the icing on the cake. I am confident that with my skills I can make it big,” she says.

She nurses dreams of representing India in golf in the 2016 Olympics and, more so, emulating the badminton star Saina Nehwal. “I want to be the Saina of golf,” she says.