Ever since Avani won her first title in 2013 – – she was seven then and it was her very first competitive event – she was marked out as a special talent. Success has come thick and fast for this 17-year-old who has dominated the amateur field in the country and made connoisseurs sit up and take notice of her immense potential.
The golf journey began by chance though for this Tiger Woods fan. She was two months shy of her fourth birthday when she picked up a golf club for the first time on a visit to a golf course in Gurgaon along with her father and grandfather.
Avani has been challenging herself these past two years by routinely playing with some of the top Indian pros at her home course at the KGA in Bengaluru. The exposure is paying off and the youngster’s journey in 2023 has been nothing short of phenomenal. Competing against some of the best in the business on the Ladies European Tour (LET) at the Magical Kenya Ladies Open in February — only her third international professional event — she finished an impressive tied ninth.
Two weeks after the Kenyan sojourn, Avani created history by winning the prestigious Queen Sirikit Cup – an Asia-Pacific Amateur Ladies Championship — in Manila by a whopping 10 shots, the first Indian to take top honours in the tournament’s 43-year history. She finished with a 16-under to decimate a quality field and equalled the biggest margin of victory in the process. Riding on her sensational show, India ended up second behind South Korea in the team event – again the best-ever finish by India.
But there wasn’t much time to savour the triumph as she had to fly straight back home for her Std 10th board exams.
Thereafter came impressive performances in pro events in Europe and Asia while she also booked a spot on the Indian team for the Asian Games. Though she was not able to get going in China, Avani did script a new chapter in Sweden earlier in August as she became the first Indian to win on the LET’s Access Series – a second-tier tour – with a sensational back-nine charge for her first international pro title.
Long before the stupendous run in Sweden, Avani had decided to give up her amateur status and turn pro on the LET. Known for her long-game prowess – the youngster can outhit most pros even on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour – Avani felt she was ready to take the plunge. The tied 12th finish at the Indian Open in 2022 and her showing in the Kenya LET event earlier this year provided affirmation that she belongs in the big league.
But before that had come success on the Women’s Pro Golf Tour in India. She won her first event when she was 14, beating some of the regular LET pros by a mile. She won two more titles after that. Her run on the Indian Golf Union tournaments in both the Ladies and Junior events has been mind-boggling. She is the youngest Indian to achieve the amateur treble – All-India Juniors, All-India Ladies Amateur (Match Play) and the Billoo Sethi Trophy (stroke play) – twice over.
Following her magical run both in amateur and pro events in the country and a gritty 16th-place finish in her debut Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific event in Abu Dhabi in 2021, Avani got a special invite last year to compete along with the cream of the world’s amateurs at the third edition of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in Augusta.
“I get to walk the same course as Tiger (Woods) did. I can’t wait to play the exact same holes and walk in his footsteps,” Avani said.