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Born: 2000 in Kathmandu
Parents: Pasang and Kalpana Sherpa
Nepal’s first female golf professional emerges
Pratima Sherpa grew up in a small hut behind the third hole of the Royal Nepal Golf Course — now she is tipped to be the country’s first female golf professional.
The petite 18-year-old is the daughter of labourers who work on the nine-hole golf course, which lies at the end of the runway of Kathmandu’s international airport. But those who have watched Sherpa play say she has what it takes to compete and win internationally, and make it to the US-based Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.
Sherpa was raised in a hut shared with lawn mowers, maintenance equipment and a few goats, and first started playing with a stick, copying the golfers she saw around her on the course. “I would play with kids of other workers. We used to watch people play golf and mimic them with wooden sticks. We would ask for balls and hit them,” Sherpa told AFP.
At the age of 11, coach Sachin Prasad Bhattarai spotted her during a juniors programme run by the club. Recognising what he describes as a natural talent, Bhattarai offered to start coaching her for free and persuaded a club member to give Sherpa an old set of clubs. “She strikes with her feel. She can do it. Not many people have that in golf,” said Bhattarai.
“People have technique, and we guarantee that a person with a good golf swing will hit well… but not everyone has the art. She has that art.” Her parents were initially reluctant to let her play, thinking she’d be out of place being a girl from a humble background. “Only rich people’s kids would come to play so I didn’t want to send her. Her studies would suffer,” said her father Pasang Tsering Sherpa.
Sherpa is now a daily sight on the course, though her routine was briefly interrupted when it was turned into a refugee camp after an earthquake devastated swathes of Nepal in April 2015. She practises under the watchful eye of Bhattarai every morning for two hours before taking the bus to school.
The small hut she still shares with her parents is crowded with more than 30 trophies from tournament victories in Nepal.
She has qualified twice for the Faldo Series China championship — an amateur tournament series for young players, which helped launch the careers of men’s World No 2 Rory McIlroy and Tseng Ya-Ni, the former top-ranked woman.
Himalayan News Service
KATHMANDU: Pratima Sherpa has been unable to take part in international meets so far because she doesn’t have a passport.
In Nepal, citizenship is passed from father to child, and Sherpa’s father, who thinks he’s about 56, doesn’t have a birth certificate.
Sherpa’s supporters have been lobbying the government to get her a passport and are confident they are on the brink of overcoming the country’s notorious bureaucracy. One member of the Royal Nepal Golf Club, a US citizen, even offered to adopt Sherpa to help her get an American passport — an offer she politely declined.
“I didn’t want to leave my ageing parents… I felt things would eventually work out,” she says glancing over at her modest home where her mother is tending to the goats. “I want to (play) for my own country.”
At the third hole, Sherpa lines up a putt and with a gentle stroke the ball rolls into the cup. “If I am successful, I want to return to where I started learning and help others like me who can’t take up this sport because it is expensive,” she added. — AFP
Faldo Series China; trip to US
Roots for [Pratima’s] 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.
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.
In the process, she is also pursuing a four-year business studies course at Thames International College of Kathmandu.
“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.
“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 In Brief
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.
2016-18: Oliver Horovitz tells the world about Pratima, starts a fundraiser
Pratima Sherpa [born 2000]…despite being the No. 1 female golfer in Nepal, lives in a shed on the fourth hole of Royal Nepal Golf Club.
At Royal Nepal Golf Club, hundreds of monkeys roam the fairways. Members use old balls, since monkeys mistake new ones for eggs
I spent a month in Nepal in May 2016, with friends Miles Ashton and Vladimir Weinstein. I met Pratima … in 2016 and was blown away by both her spirit and her game. Her hero is Tiger Woods. Her dream is to become Nepal’s first female golf professional. And her parents are both workers at Royal Nepal, making a combined $19 a month.
I wrote a story on Pratima for Golf Digest, and together with Miles and Vlad, started a fundraiser for Pratima. An American family, the Montanos, saw the fundraiser, and hosted Pratima in Ventura, Calif., for six weeks. ESPN began filming a documentary about Pratima.
[In Feb 2018] it got into the Tribeca Film Festival. ESPN arranged to fly Pratima to New York City for the premiere.
[April 2018]: ESPN has Pratima staying at the swanky NYLO Hotel on 77th and Broadway (featuring running water and electricity). When I meet Pratima there on Thursday, she’s already in the lobby, on a video-chat with her parents. Pasang and Kalpana were up at 1:30 a.m., Kathmandu-time, to see their daughter. Pratima offers me an ear bud, and I jump in for a quick “Namaste!” It is unavoidably bittersweet. Pasang and Kalpana were supposed to join Pratima on this trip, but their visas were rejected.
It’s Saturday afternoon, Pratima’s Film Festival premiere. The Montanos, Pratima’s host family, have flown in. So have many others. This is what Pratima does. She connects people. She makes them feel happy. She radiates peace, innocence. Hope. Which is to say, she inspires us all to be better people.
At the theater, Pratima is pulled onto the red carpet for pictures. I think about how well Pratima is handling all of this. How overwhelming this must all be for her. I mean, she was in the shed four days ago. Now she’s here—on the red carpet at the Tribeca Film Festival. And her smile shines brighter than the lights.
After the film, I see my friend David Fontanilla in the lobby. I’ve invited him because he knows Pratima’s story well. He’s a Tiger Woods Foundation donor and was the first person I told about Pratima after my trip. Through David, Tiger read the Golf Digest article and wrote a letter to Pratima, now framed and sitting in Pratima’s shed. It’s her most cherished possession. It’s also the closest Pratima thought she would ever come to her hero.
I go up to my friend and shake his hand, “Did you like the film?” David has clearly been crying. He looks very moved. What he says next will alter the course of Pratima’s young life, yet again:
“I’m heading to Florida tomorrow for Tiger’s Foundation event. We have to get Pratima there, too.”
[April 2018] Tiger said yes. David booked flights for Pratima and her host-sister Sophia. And now here we are, watching Pratima wait for her hero.
“I have to take a breath,” Pratima laughs, trying to calm herself.
And then, a cart appears as Pratima is watching. As the cart comes towards us, it can only be one person. In that moment, I think about the shed, and Pratima hitting 5-irons in torrential rain. About her parents changing pins every morning at Royal Nepal. And if there were any doubt that if you work hard enough, dreams can come true, those doubts evaporate in this exact moment … as Tiger Woods pulls up, and utters the single coolest word I have ever heard from someone’s lips: “Pratima!!!!”
“Hi Tiger!!!!” Pratima runs up to the cart. Tiger jumps out with a huge smile on his face, and the two bear-hug. Pratima looks up at Tiger, at her hero. Ten feet away, everybody is crying.
Ten hours later, Pratima, Sophia and I are back in New York just in time for Pratima’s final Tribeca screening—Pratima’s bag stuffed with signed Tiger hats and flags. The screening has ended. Everybody now stands in the lobby. Tomorrow morning, Pratima flies back to Kathmandu. The next night, Pratima will sleep inside her shed.
In the land of Everest, Pratima continues to climb the mountain. She will not stop.