Female Tigerby JOHN HOPKINS [Times Online]
Talk of promising young female golfers seems to centre on Michelle Wie, the prodigiously talented Hawaiian who has hogged the headlines for the past few years. This is to overlook other Americans, many prodigies from the Far East and, most particularly, Kiran Matharu, a highly talented teenager from Leeds, England.
Remember the name. It is going to crop up again and again. Matharu, a Sikh who was 18 in February, started to play golf at 11 and within six months had represented Yorkshire. She played for Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup against the United States last July, turned professional one month later and recently became the youngest player to qualify to compete on the Ladies European Tour. Recently, she competed in the Indian Ladies Open in Delhi.
It is easy to summon up a picture in the mind's eye of Matharu on a golf course, of her measured pace as she walks from one shot to another, of the considerable length she hits the ball, of her neat and sharp short game. She looks at home on a golf course in the same way that swimmers can look at home in water or riders can become one with their horses. She appears to have a placid temperament and to be well grounded, pleased to bask in her growing fame yet not having her head turned by it.
Yet in her pellmell ascent she has never had to do what was asked of her last Thursday, when she spent time at a photographic studio in North London modelling for Puma, a clothing sponsor, Ping, the manufacturers of her golf clubs, and Delwood, her sponsors, a Dubai-based company. It was one pose after another for one hour after another.
Journalists queued to interview her, each with an accompanying photographer. Make-up artists were at hand, so were her parents, so was her manager. Welcome to fame, Kiran. You're 18, photogenic, one of the best in the world at what you do. You had better get used to it.
As all this was going on, Amarjit Matharu, her father, leant over and said: "She is loving this. It is the highlight of her career, including winning the English [amateur]. She was awarded the Junior Sports Personality of the Year in the recent Sony Entertainment Asia Awards and we went to the Hilton Hotel in London and she met Amir Khan. He's smaller than she is. That surprised her. Jermaine Jackson came up to speak to her and was asking how his son could turn professional. She thought that was really something."
It is only when the cameras are put away and Matharu is sitting at a table that you notice how young she looks. But do not confuse youth for a lack of ambition. "I want to win three tournaments this year," Matharu said. "Then I want to become the world's Number 1 at the age of 25. I played with Michelle Wie in a practice round before last year's Women's British Open. She is a nice girl and obviously a great player but from seeing her play, no, I don't think she is unbeatable."
Peter Tupling, the former European Tour professional, has been Matharu's only coach and one of many things that marked her out in his eyes was the speed with which she picked things up.
"Peter said to me not long ago: ‘What I want you to work on now is really hard,' " Kiran Matharu explained. " ‘I want to change your position at impact. I predict it will take at least two months.' I've been doing it for two weeks so far and it feels comfortable already."
Amarjit Matharu told a revealing story about the speed of his daughter's progress. "In her first year she got down to a 12 handicap and I thought she might slow down a little after that," he said.
"She got down to 6 the next year and Peter [Tupling] and I thought she'd hit a brick wall then. She was playing off one or two the next year and Peter and I thought she would definitely start to struggle.
"The year after that she got down to plus two and we both thought ‘that's it'. It wasn't.
"She finished her amateur career playing off plus four and Peter and I have stopped saying that we think her progression will slow down.
"Every year she has exceeded what we expected of her."
Amarjit Matharu said that he had encountered racial prejudice when he tried to join certain golf clubs in Leeds, the city of his birth.
"In my day, in 1981 and 1982, I couldn't even get into a municipal course," he said. "I applied to join some and they turned me down."
His daughter had her own difficulties. One club rejected her application for membership on the grounds that she was too famous. "I didn't think my daughter would have the same issue as me 20 years later," Amarjit Matharu said.
"That sort of thing is not very nice," Kiran Matharu said in a voice tinged with a Yorkshire accent.
"You wonder why they would not want an England player in their club? There is only one reason why. I think it is their loss. You have just got to get on with it.
"Anyway, Cookridge Hall have given me honorary membership."
Conversation about this article
1: Harpreet Rehsi (Gwalior, India), May 03, 2007, 1:12 AM.
Will she marry me? Just kiddinggg ... I'm very happy to see her do so well. Sikhs always prove that they are the best!
2: Neil Harvey PGA Professional (Leeds, England), August 22, 2007, 9:02 AM.
The comment that Kiran's only coach has been Peter Tupling is inaccurate. Neil Harvey was her coach for her first two years playing. The second year, he coached her for free. She left on his own recommendation when she was a very capable 10 handicap at age 12.