March 21, 2023
SINGAPORE – As one of India’s top female golfers, Diksha Dagar is a recognisable name in her country.
She has been mentioned on the popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati, an Indian adaptation of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, an incident that had her excited friends sending her messages with pictures of her name on their television screens.
But the 22-year-old still gets shocked when she runs into fans outside of India who come to support her at tournaments or come up to ask for pictures and autographs. Many of these fans are from the deaf and hearing impaired community, and see Diksha – herself hearing impaired – as their inspiration.
After all, Diksha is the first golfer to compete in both the Olympics and the Deaflympics, and is among the few deaf people to compete at the Summer Games.
“It gives me motivation, you feel proud that you’ve made that history,” she told The Straits Times on Wednesday, ahead of this week’s Aramco Team Series Singapore. She has been drafted into Anne van Dam’s team alongside Lily May Humphreys and amateur Kim Jo-eun.
Diksha was seven when she was introduced to the sport by her father, Narinder Dagar. For the left-hander, it was difficult to find a set of clubs she could use comfortably.
“I couldn’t find left-handed clubs for women,” she recalled. “So I had to play with a men’s steel set that was very heavy.”
She switched between different equipment until golf manufacturer Callaway approached her at the Women’s British Open in 2019 and found something that finally suited her.
Despite these obstacles, Narinder said his daughter’s passion never wavered. “She would go to the golf course every day after school, have lunch there, and come back for more in the evening,” he said.
By 2015, Diksha was the leading female amateur in India. She returned from the 2017 Summer Deaflympics in Turkey with a silver medal, the first Indian to claim a medal in the sport.
A year later, she turned down a scholarship offer from a prominent American university, choosing instead to turn professional. “I got that feeling, I want to do something more. I want to play golf at the top level,” she noted.
Her self-belief was rewarded and in March 2019, she won her first Ladies European Tour (LET) event, the South African Women’s Open. She said: “It was a pleasant surprise, I’d just turned pro… I pinched myself and hoped I’m not dreaming.”
She is only the second Indian woman, after Aditi Ashok, to triumph on the LET. Both women also competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Aditi finished fourth, Diksha – a late entrant after South African Paula Reto withdrew – ended 50th.
Narinder, who serves in the Indian army, described Diksha’s efforts in attempting to qualify for the Olympics: “She used to get up at four o’clock in the morning to train. When other people were getting up, she had already put in four or five hours of hard work… It was military-like training.”
While Diksha won gold at the 2021 Deaflympics, she has yet to add to her 2019 success on the LET, though she remains undeterred. “I want to play my best golf and keep working on the process. I’m hoping someday I can win again,” she said.