Sharmila Nicollet has an entire career in golf ahead of her but she can opt for a glamorous career in modelling too. However, she manages to juggle both with the sport being her priority. There is a common point though. The camera loves her be it on the greens or under the arc lights.
Only 23, Sharmila has already made a name for herself in Indian women's golf. In 2012, she became the youngest Indian (at 19) to qualify for the Ladies European Tour (LET). She has now set her sights on becoming world No. 1 before settling down to a "good life" by the time she turns 40. She won her her first title of the season in the fourth leg of Hero Women's Professional Golf Tour at the Bombay Presidency Golf Club, Chembur, in February end.
Only earlier that month, just when almost the whole of New Delhi was jostling for space to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods during his brief visit to the national capital, Sharmila was one of the privileged few to have played with the world No. 1 golfing icon.
"I played two holes with Tiger and played pretty well," Sharmila tells dna during one of her visits to Mumbai as the brand ambassador of the Audi quattro Cup 2014.
"Playing with Tiger means a lot to me," Sharmila adds. "It was a dream-come-true. Who doesn't want to play with him? The little kids got inspired by him. I got inspired by him. I would cherish it close to my heart."
Talk to her more about her moments with Tiger and her face lights up. "He has been my idol. I look up to him. I have been following him since I was a kid. His recovery shots, his mental strength... He has given the sport a facelift with his fitness. Despite all the criticisms and controversies he has faced in the past, he is still World No. 1, and that matters the most. His charisma, his attitude, his mental strength, his persona, I was beyond overwhelmed."
If it was Tiger on the golf course, she also caught up with Sachin Tendulkar around the same time. "I met Tiger and Sachin separately," she clarifies. "They are legends in their respective fields. Sachin is very honest. They are so grounded. They would help anyone who wants help. They are very good human beings and that is important at the end of the day."
It is the humility of these legends that impressed Sharmila and she intends to take this leaf out of their books.
"Golf humbles me. You can't always win. I am very competitive. I only want to win. I don't accept losing or coming second. Golf has taught me to accept losses and how to come out of it. Everyone goes down.
Nobody is in the peak form for ever. I am very confident about myself now," she says.
She is also positive about doing well in the LET this year, her third on the Tour.
"The first year was all about experience, getting used to the competition. In the second year, I started off really well. I was in peak form when doctor told me to sit it out as I suffered multiple toe fracture. Since then I have been working on my fitness. This year, I am going to be working on being injury-free. I have also been working a lot with my shots and putting, These are the areas I need to work to compete in Tours like Ladies Professional Golf Association and Europe.
"My goal this year is to win a Tour. No Indian has won a tournament in Europe and I would like to be the first to do so. It is going to be a very hectic Tour. I am going to maximise on whatever I can when I am in form," says Sharmila.
The country's premier woman golfer is also keen to bridge the gap between the men's and women's golf. "There is always a mismatch in terms of the sponsors, the number of players and the prize money involved. It is a tough time for women's golf. But it is growing every year.
"The number of women players are increasing, and we have different winners. It shows how competitive the women's level is. Obviously we can't get to the same level as the men. I hope I could change that.
An Indian win abroad could change the perspective of people and sponsors towards the sport. It will really help like what Saina (Nehwal) did for badminton and what Sania (Mirza) did for tennis. Hopefully, I could be that person in golf."
As much as the gap being wide between women and men's golf in India, Sharmila says that the respect for women is missing. "I feel we don't get as much respect as the men do. It is tough for women everywhere, even in Europe. I get a lot of modelling offers. I love fashion but I don't really get into it. My priority lies in golf. But people misunderstand me and look at me in different ways. I don't like it. I want to be portrayed as a golfer and not as a fashion icon. It is tough for a woman golfer in India."
Sharmila has learnt to strike a balance between modelling assignments and golf. "Golf is my priority. I wouldn't be where I am right now without this sport. I do shoot once in a while for magazines on the sidelines because I love fashion and I love dressing up. But, that is not my focus."
Sharmila says she owes a lot to her mother Surekha Nagaraj and coach Tarun Sardesai for shaping her into a golfer. She is particularly attached to her mother. "I am really lucky to have a parent, especially an Indian parent for her mindset and supporting the child for anything. My mother really supported every decision I made, be it studies or golf.
"I had to sacrifice a lot to play golf. I have sacrificed the college life, I have sacrificed the social life, I sacrificed a lot of teenage life. But I have been a lot more mature than I could have been. As a person, I have developed a lot by travelling the world."
Among other passions for this golfing beauty are cars and rallies. "Audi, who have been helping me on Tours, just gave me a Q3 and it is lovely driving it on these roads," she says.
But for now, it is her drives on the golf course that hold her attention.
Born: March 12, 1991, Bangalore
Turned pro: 2009
Current tours: Women's Golf Association of India, Ladies European Tour
Took up golf at age 11 in 2002
Represented India in 2006 Doha Asiad
Youngest to win All India Ladies Amateur Championship in 2007-08
Professional wins (WGAI): 11
Youngest Indian golfer to qualify for Ladies European Tour
Hero Women's Professional Golf Tour, Hero Order of Merit
Lady golfer of the year (IGULS): 2007
Player of the year (WGAI): 2010