The life stories of 24 year-olds Zebunnisa and Ana James Gill are not ordinary ones. A few years ago, the two good friends made a conscious decision to give up working in a factory in Shahdra, Lahore for life on the golf course at Royal Palm Golf and Country Club. Today, the duo hopes to become leading professional golfers as they expand upon a career as one of the few female caddie duos in Pakistan.
“In all of Pakistan, there are no female caddies besides us two, we have been best friends since we can remember,” remarked Zebunnisa. “We left the factory for our future, we wanted to do something that was different from everybody else.”
The greens of Royal Palm have become a home to the duo. Golf has taken over there life. Working at Royal Palm for the last six years, both ooze with a sense of achievement that they are doing something that many girls with similar backgrounds as theirs rarely ever get to experience.
The duo explained that aside from learning a basic understanding of the course, it could be a relatively tough job, which requires walking for hours in the summer heat.
The girls’ routine has been consumed by caddying of 18 holes in the morning with a small break for lunch and then another 18 holes at night.
“It’s a tough job because you have to carry a lot of weight and then, of course, you have to walk a lot. Traditionally, it’s not seen as something girls would do,” said Zebunnisa.
“There were many members who felt uncomfortable, they would say that we did not know much about golf, but we worked on it and the members grew to like us.”
Working on the course also allowed them to learn the game themselves. With the help of supporting members of the club, the duo started practising eight months ago without ever playing a competitive game.
This changed after Ana caddied a team that had arrived from Dehli Golf Club. The club routinely invites random clubs from abroad for competition.
It was here that she met the lady captain from Dehli named Bubble Sunja, who invited the duo to participate in the Talwar Trophy, held in Dehli Golf Club.
The duo, playing its first game, went to Dehli and surprised the competition with impressive results with Zebunnisa getting first position scoring a 155 over three days and Ana securing third place and winning the longest drive award. The competition included female golfers from all over the world, explained the duo.
“We weren’t that experienced but I think we had a mindset that we could win,” said Ana.
The surprise result has really opened the possibilities for more professional tournaments. The more they play, the more they expect their handicap position – lack of opportunities in Pakistan – to improve. The event in India was only their first competitive match but they now plan on participating in local amateur tournaments.
“Wherever there is a tournament, we will play, because we want to bring our handicap down,” said Ana, revealing the club has promised to sponsor to play in tournaments across Pakistan.
Looking at their journey, thus far, Ana keeps a perspective she hopes that someday more females would be encouraged to play golf, pointing out how the competition in India included around 150 female golfers.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2013.