World deaf champ wins #VicOpen spot

Diksha Dagar
Diksha Dagar. Credit: Paul Shire

Diksha Dagar, a profoundly deaf Indian teenager who has taken the amateur golf world on the subcontinent by storm, has qualified to play the ISPS Handa Vic Open this week.

Dagar, 18, who recently turned professional and earned her playing rights on the Ladies European Tour, shot 69 at Sanctuary Lakes on the western fringe Melbourne to win one of the last spots in the field.

It will be by far the biggest professional event she has played in.

“I’m not sure if knows fully what she’s done and what she’s playing in yet,’’ said her father, Narinder Dagar today.

“But she’s aware that she’ll be playing against some of the best in the world, and she thinks that she deserves to be there. She’s a very confident girl.’’

Diksha Dagar is on her first visit to Australia. Profoundly deaf from birth, the young woman from the village of Chappar, in Haryana state not far from the capital Delhi, functions with coclear implants and a dash of lip-reading and sign language.

Her father caddies for her and translates as well. “She doesn’t have a coach or a mind coach, she doesn’t need anything else,’’ said Narinder Dagar today. “I’m with her most of the time. Of course, communication is an issue but we have what we have, even though nothing can really replace full hearing.

“She has the hearing instruments that she uses and they are of some help, and she understands sign language and does some lip reading.”

The left-handed Dagar did not come out of nowhere in golf terms. She has been the No. 1 amateur in India for the past four years, represented her nation at the Asian Games last year and won the Singapore Ladies Amateur Championship. She won the world deaf championship in Ireland in 2018.

“She’s venturing out into the world,’’ said Narinder Dagar. “It’s not just about India now. Our aim is to play in the ALPG (Australian tour) more permanently. We want to be around this place. The people have been fantastic to us and that’s been so much help to Diksha as we’ve gone around.”

Top Australian amateur Stephanie Bunque matched Dagar’s 69 to grab the second spot in the Open field from Sanctuary Lakes.

Frenchwoman Agathe Sauzon shot a 69 to take the qualifying spot from Barwon Heads Golf Club, just across the way from 13th Beach. Sauzon is a Ladies European Tour player.

At Curlewis, the four spots available in the men's field were filled by Andrew Pitt (Victoria), James Gibbelini (Queensland), Ruben Lal (Victoria) and Jamie Hook (NSW) who all shot 68s.

At Portarlington, the three spots on offer were picked up by Victorian Andrew Kelly, WA's Brady Watt and Canadian player Austin Connelly.

PRE-QUALIFYING RESULTS (by venue)