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Matharu blazes a golf trail
By Alistair Magowan

How many British female golfers can you name?

Laura Davies? Catriona Matthew? Mhairi McKay? Becky Morgan?

KIRAN MATHARU FACTFILE
Kiran receives her Faldo Series award from Nick Faldo
Age: 16
Lives: Leeds, Yorkshire
Achievements: Played for Yorkshire girls within six months of starting golf;
Youngest player to represent Yorkshire first team at 14;
Made debut for England girls at 14;
Winner of 2004 Faldo Series
Handicap: Plus two
Favourite golfers: Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam

Now can you name any British Asian women playing golf in this country?

Well here's one for starters: Kiran Matharu.

The 16-year-old from Leeds may cut a striking figure on the course but for one reason only: she is outstanding at golf.

This is a girl who, as part of Team Faldo, destroyed the opposition in the highly acclaimed Faldo Series in 2004 by beating her nearest rival by 11 shots.

She even registered a two-round final score which beat the Under-18 and Under-21 boys, all at the age of 15.

Not bad for a girl who started playing by "accident".

She told BBC Sport: "When I was about 12, I went to the golf course with my dad and was just watching him hit balls on the range. So I had a go with his clubs.

"Then a professional walked passed and told my dad that I had a natural swing.

"It was the first time I had tried golf. I wasn't really interested in it before. Now I think it's great."

Recruitment problems

Girls' interest in golf is an issue which the captain of the Professional Golfer's Association, Beverly Lewis, is planning to tackle head on.

The 57-year-old is the first woman to hold the position at the PGA and is hoping more girls can discover the game in the same manner as Matharu.

"Ladies golf is fairly flourishing with lots taking up the game in their 40s," she said, "but there aren't enough girls coming into the sport.

"Most golf clubs in this country will be lucky if they have, say, six girl members."

Approximate number of girls affiliated to UK golf clubs
Kiran (right) with fellow Team Faldo member Henrietta Brockway
England: 5,200
Wales: 850
Scotland: 2,800
Northern Ireland: 1,031

Revealingly, Matharu admits that she probably wouldn't be playing any other sport if she didn't play golf.

And even as a teenager, she is aware of the issues facing British Asian girls. But she too doesn't really know where the answers lie.

She says: "I'm proud to be the only Asian girl playing but I don't know why other Asian girls don't play.

"None of them play sport really, it's a bit of a problem. My Asian friends say that golf is boring. They say they want to play golf but they never do.

"I've told them that they can't say it's boring if they haven't played it. But if I asked them down the range they'd just say: 'no'."

Meeting the Prime Minister

Matharu has been a name in Yorkshire since she was 12 when typically her first win for Yorkshire girls was against Lancashire.

Since then, her dedication to practice has meant she gets to rub shoulders with some of golf's and sport's elite.

Tony Blair
I got to speak to Tony Blair but he didn't really know much about golf
Kiran Matharu

As well as regular meetings with Nick Faldo she has also spent time with leading coach David Leadbetter in America.

She says: "It was great to have a lesson with the best coach in the world. Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Nick Dougherty were there at the time and I met them all.

"I've been to 10 Downing Street as well for the launch of London's 2012 Olympic bid. I got to speak to Tony Blair but he didn't really know much about golf.

"I met Sven-Goran Eriksson and I spoke to Chris Eubank for a while although he crushed my hand when he shook it!"

In 2004 Matharu entered into the Women's British Open and successfully got through pre-qualifying, despite having to use her brother's golf clubs.

She says: "I came home from Austria the day before but my clubs stayed there. I'm not sure if this is the reason I missed out in the final qualifying but I'd never used the clubs before so it was hard."

"I'm going to try and qualify for the British Open again but whatever happens it'll good to play against the pros to compare yourself against them."

Testing herself against the likes of Michelle Wie is something Matharu can now look forward to.

"I think it's great what she has done for the game," Matharu says, "but I don't think she should get invited straight into everything. She should have to qualify like everyone else.

"I saw her at the Curtis Cup. She looked a bit sad and like she didn't want to be there. She won and she still didn't look happy!

"When I play well I enjoy myself on the course."

With ambitions to play on the LPGA Tour, Matharu is proving to be a very enjoyable accident.




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