When one has to think about Nepal’s golf sport in the modern world, Pratima Sherpa is the name that immediately strikes to mind.
Pratima Sherpa (18), a girl born to a couple working in the Royal Nepal Golf Club (RNGC) course next to the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, never thought that she would become Nepal’s top-rated female golf player.
Aspiring to become Nepal’s first female professional golfer, Pratima recalls her rejoicing moments in her early days where she used to feel refreshed listening to the sounds of golf balls hit by golfers at the club.
In fact, Pratima’s passion for golf sport stemmed out during her family’s stay at the golf course with lawnmowers as part of their employment and has moved her further to take up the sport properly from the age of 11 years.
Whereas, roots for her passion actually lies in the typical Nepali rural outdoor game Dandi Biyo, played by hitting a 6-inch long wooden pin (Biyo) into the air with a wooden stick (Dandi) and strike it again before other players catch it, which she played in her childhood.
Dandi Biyo has been Nepal’s unofficial national sport until Volleyball was declared officially on May 23, 2017.
Pratima’s talent got due recognition from one of the coaches when she was learning the sport through juniors’ program run by the club.
The coach joined Pratima under his own wing for free and further appointed a member who introduced her to a set of old clubs.
Pratima continued her practice and eventually crossed various challenges that got her around 40 trophies, so far. But, she never relaxed and practices for at least two hours a day.
“Nepal is a smaller country than most, and playing golf can be difficult for poor families like ours. But I’ve got a big opportunity to play golf, and feel very proud and lucky that I’ve got that chance. I want to become a great golfer,” says Pratima.
Despite holding such a talent, Pratima had to struggle a lot for getting a passport to fly abroad to present her skill in the global arena.
Even though an American member of the club offered to adopt, Pratima never thought of leaving her parents.
Finally, with the help of her relations, she could get the passport and has recently travelled to the United States, where she stayed six weeks experiencing golf for the first time outside Nepal.
After being hosted by a Nepali software engineer, Pratima competed in five regional tournaments in California winning one of them and made it at top-6 in the two other matches.
A Hong Kong based sponsorship is also in offing for Pratima currently, which requires her to return to States and pursue golf classes at the California’s Santa Barbara City College.
Pratima, currently playing off a five golf handicap, loves to play for the Faldo Series China Championship, the tournament that hosted renowned Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy and Taiwanese golfer Yani Tseng.
“It’s really wonderful to see that the whole of Nepal has got excited about Pratima. They’re so proud of her and so supportive. She’s an amazing spokesperson, an amazing icon for Nepali golf and more generally for Nepal and Nepali women,” says Oliver Horovitz, a journalist, author and a golf caddy, who met Pratima at RNGC.
Keeping aside key challenges in personal life (caring for family) and career passion, Pratima loves and finds her ability to balance both in a proper way.
In the process, she is also pursuing a four-year business studies course at Thames International College of Kathmandu.
“I can’t say how far my golf career will go. Ultimately, I want to become Nepal’s first female professional golfer,” says Pratima.
“Royal family is gone, we have a new government and there are more opportunities for women. There’s a Nepali proverb, Fruits of labor are always sweet, so now I’ve been given the opportunity to play golf I am going to try my hardest,” reads her latest statement.
Public supporters of Pratima have started www.teampratima.com to raise donations favoring Pratima’s career. This clearly shows the level of love and support Pratima has gained from Nepali society for her sincere efforts.
Pratima always wishes to give back to her nation.
“I want to develop golf in Nepal. I will give back to the Nepali golf community and will help underprivileged children enjoy the sport as I have,” she adds.
“Any competitive golfer that wants to be on the world stage is working hard. Not all of them have that joy for every single shot they hit. I thought that was a pretty striking difference from Pratima and other young players. She has an amazing opportunity to really influence a ton of kids over in Kathmandu. She’s inspiring a generation of kids over there,” says a renowned US’ Golf Coach Don Parsons.
Golf in Nepal took its actual form in 1917 when the then prime minister of the country introduced golf clubs following his Scotland trip and had also set up a basic course. However, the sport remained limited to the then Nepali elite families and expatriates for long until RNGC came up in 1965.
Apart from RNGC, which has 9 golf holes, Nepal has three other golf courses in the Kathmandu Valley (Gokarna Golf Course), Pokhara and Dharan.
Nepal’s golf community fear RNGC might get affected if the Government of Nepal’s supposed plans to expanding TIA are implemented.
Overall, Nepal has a total of four golf courses in contrast to hundreds of registered golf players.