By Subhojit Panda
Age is just a number when it comes to achieving your goals in life. If you are confident, strong-willed and focused then no force on earth can stop you from reaching the pinnacle of success. Bhubaneswar-based woman golfer Lakhi Swain stands a perfect testimony to this. Even at the age of 56, she plays golf like a pro and brims with confident like a teenage golf player whenever she hits the golf course. Lakhi, a homemaker, has broken the gender barrier multiple times by winning several international and national golf tournaments. Today she not only stands as one of the topmost women golfers in the nation but has also emerged as an inspiration for young girls aspiring to make it big in golf.Lakhi has reignited a wave of golf fever among the young players who are willing to take bigger strides in the sport like her.
Unlike other players who usually start playing a sport early in their lives, Lakhi was introduced to golf in 2004 when she was 43. “I had never aspired to become a golfer. I’m lucky that golf happened to me at a time when I was looking for ways to keep myself busy. One fine day, I had been to Bhubaneswar Golf Course (BGC) for some work. I saw some players practicing on the golf course. The green patches of golf were enough to pull me towards golf. Within no time, I decided that I would play golf for the rest of my life. I had a word with my husband and we both started practicing golf at the same time,” she says.
Lakhi fell in love with the sport and soon her passion led her to practice rigorously to get ready for the golf tournaments. Under the insistence of her coach, Lakhi took part in her maiden golf tournament held at 120 Battalion in Bhubaneswar in 2005 and also won it convincingly with only six months of practice. “Initially I wasn’t very keen on taking part in the tournament as I had six months of practice under my belt. I was also not very much aware regarding the technicalities of the game. But my coach insisted me to give it a shot. I vividly remember how I had played that tournament with a lot of dedication and focus. When I was declared the winner in the ladies category, quite a many eyebrows were raised then. Everybody was surprised how a lady at this age and that too in her debut tournament can win in such a convincing manner,” she recollected. The victory formed the stepping stone for the multiple-time state golf champion as she began harboring dreams of winning other tournaments as well. Lakhi is a regular face at the Corporate Cup Golf Championships held in Bhubaneswar where she has emerged as the best golfer multiple times. She has also stamped her supremacy at golf tournamentsorganized by BGC, FALCON, CII, NALCO, Hole-in-one club, MCL, etc. for last 13 years. Interestingly, Lakhi has been competing in the men’s category in the state since 2010.
Lakhi was never content with her state accolades. She wasn’t also content with the competition in her category as not many woman golfers existed in the state then. So, she decidedto move a step ahead and try her luck at the national tournaments. Her first victory at the national level came at the 3rd Steel City Ladies Golf Tournament in Jamshedpur where she won the Best Outstation Player Award. Subsequently, Lakhi finished runners-up at the 3rd BPGC Open Ladies Amateur Golf Championship by Chembur Golf Club in Mumbai in 2011, emerged victorious among the ladies at the 3rd Ranchi Amateur Golf Tournament in 2012 and was crowned as the winner (ladies) at Jubilee Golf Tournament in Jamshedpur the same year. Also, she won four prestigious titles at Tollygaunge Golf Cup Ladies Open Championship in Kolkata in 2013. She then, came with an impressive performance to win the ladies title at the 36th Jubilee Golf Tournament in Jamshedpur in 2014 and the BMW Golf Club International in Kolkata the following year.
Lakhi created a flutter in 2015 when she became the first woman golfer from Odisha to win an international tournament. In her debut appearance at the international level, Lakhidished out a fine victory after bagging the champion’s title in the women category at the 6th Ballantine’s Team-Am Golf Challenge in Jakarta from September 8 to 10. “Initially not many people were confident that I would make a mark at the international level. But going into the tournament, my only aim was to play my best. When I was declared the winner, I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe that I had emerged victorious in a field dominated by strong players. The victory was a huge morale booster for me,” she said.This was followed by three fine victories- winning the ladies title at the Eastern India BMW Golf Cup International 2015 in Kolkata in October 2015, grabbing the top prize in 0-24 handicap category at the 4th Visa Steel Women Golf Tournament in Kolkata in January 2016 and a winner’s trophy at the prestigious Indo-Nippon Cup held in Delhi from December 2 to 4 in 2016 organized by the Embassy of Japan.
Lakhi also had a sensational season in 2018 when she competed in a lot of prestigious tournaments and won quite a few of them. Notably, she won the BGC Golf Tournament and President’s Trophy in Bhubaneswar, Jubilee Golf Tournament (Ladies Best Gross 22 and above)in Jamshedpur and Diplomat’s Golf Cup (ladies category) earlier this year.
Lakhi has also mastered the art of balancing sports with her personal life. Though at times it takes a toll on her, Lakhi is never complaining. “Being a hands-on homemaker, I give more priority to my family although golf will always remain close to my heart. At times, I had to miss several important tournaments due to family commitments but there are no regrets. I feel proud of whatever I have achieved in golf so far. It is never easy for a homemaker to take care of her family and win tournaments with equal easeat the same time. It needs a lot of focus, dedication and hard work and of course complete support of family members,” said Lakhi who considers Tiger Woods and Michele Wi as her favorite players in golf. Apart from golf, Lakhi finds pleasure in gardening especially growing fruits and vegetables in an organic way. Lakhi’s peers are of the view that she is an incredible golf player who plays the sport effortlessly like a lioness.
Notwithstanding her enviable success in golf, the Jagatsinghpur-born golfer is not very pleased with the golf infrastructure in the state. “There is no dedicated golf academy or proper practice range. Unlike other sports, government hardly supports or recognizes the sport. This is the reason why we haven’t produced any national or international golf talents in the state. Hence there is a strong desire to come up with a dedicated golf academy where I could train the young talents and prepare them for the tournaments,” she said adding that organizing an international golf tournament or setting up an academy of international-standard will attract golfers far and near which will indirectly boast the tourism industry.
Lakhi has now set her eyes on the European circuit. “My aim is to win more international tournaments and make the state and country proud. This is just the beginning and I’m sure there are many more milestones to achieve. Till my body supports me, I will always give my best in golf and if given an opportunity, inspire the younger lot to take up the beautiful sport of golf,” she concluded.