“In India, I was the big fish in a small pond. In Europe, I was struggling to perform. It was a very humbling experience.”

These words from Sharmila Nicollet briefly explain her struggle on the Ladies European Tour (LET) where she made the ‘cut’ only twice from 15 starts.

The Bangalore-based Sharmila, 21, is back at the Gurgaon’s DLF Golf and Country Club looking to win the $300,000 Hero Indian Open women’s golf championship beginning on November 30. The 54-hole event is co-sanctioned by the LET and the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and the Women’s Golf Association of India.

Currently placed a distant 138 on the LET Order of Merit, Sharmila is in danger of losing her playing eligibility on the Tour next season.

To retain her playing rights on the LET, Sharmila will have to win the title here this week. Given her modest showing in her rookie season, Sharmila is unlikely to figure in the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters in Dubai from December 5 to 8.

Tough experience

“It was tough but a good learning experience for me on the LET. The greens in Europe are much faster than what we have in India. I realised, I need to work on my long irons and my short game.

“I have added yoga and other exercises to my routine. Now, I’ll be better prepared next season,” said Sharmila who gate-crashed into the LET after finishing in the top-30 of the last Qualifying School.

“I am here to win the Indian Open. There is nothing bigger for me to win than an LET event at home. It’s important to get a low round at the start.

“In many events this year, I returned high first-round scores and then tried to catch up in the second,” shared the articulate golfer, who turned professional in 2009.

This season, Sharmila made the ‘cut’ in the Lalla Meryem Cup and the South African Women’s Cup for the season’s earnings of €4,176.

“Since it was not financially viable to return to India between events, I played on and injured my wrist and ankle. In fact, every part of my body was hurting from playing continuously for weeks.

“Next year, I will pick and choose my events. This will also help me focus better. My body, too, will be able to recover well,” said a chastened Sharmila.

Best home bet

Smriti Mehra, the only Indian to qualify for the Ladies PGA Tour since 1998, remains the best home bet considering her vast experience. “I am fit and ready to prove a lot of people wrong,” declared the 40-year-old, a professional since 1995.

Two-time champion and last year’s runner-up Phatlum Pornanong was happy to be back. Winner of the HSBC Brazil Cup this season, Phatlum said she loved playing on the DLF course and was looking to win her third title here.

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, the LET Order of Merit leader with two titles this season, said, “With only two events to go this year, I am looking to keep my place on the money list. I am happy with the way I am playing and I am enjoying the atmosphere here.”

Scotland’s Carly Booth, placed fourth on the Order of Merit, too, was looking for her third title of the year. “Last year was not too good. This year, it is great to win twice. I try and enjoy myself on the course. I am looking forward to doing the same here,” she said.

Australia’s Stacey Keating is keen to continue her recent run that fetched her two titles. “It’s been a great second half of the season. I hope I can have a good week here.”

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