Sherpa is a teen golfer living in a shed in Nepal
Hopes to become the country's first female pro
Recently met her idol Tiger Woods in the US
If Tiger Woods says your golf swing is perfect, you’re going to feel pretty good about yourself.
But if you’re an 18-year-old from Nepal with dreams of becoming your country’s first female pro, those words can be life-changing.
That was the case for Pratima Sherpa, who lives with her parents in a shed on the fourth hole of the Royal Nepal Golf Club in Kathmandu.
Sherpa is the No. 1 ranked female golfer in Nepal. She first played the game with a set of wooden clubs her father whittled from a tree and has gone on to become a local celebrity in a country where women, let alone teenage girls, are rarely seen playing golf.
She continues to practice three or four hours a day in between going to college and looking after her family’s small flock of animals.
The past few years have been a whirlwind for Sherpa as her story has been told to the world.
With the help of an American journalist and a fundraising campaign, she has traveled to the US to practice, play tournaments, and see a documentary screening of her career so far.
And on top of all that, she squeezed in a few hours with Tiger.
“I flew to Florida and I was waiting for Tiger Woods and when he came, he said, ‘Hi Pratima!’ I’ll never forget that ‘Hi Pratima,’” Sherpa tells CNN Sport from her family’s shed back home in Kathmandu.
“I hit the ball and he was just checking my swing and he said, ‘Your swing is perfect, you don’t need to change anything.’ He told me about his experience. He said just never give up; you need your passions in golf – it’s a mind game.”
Strolling on the Florida greens with Woods couldn’t be further from golf as Sherpa knows it in Kathmandu.
There, monkeys are known to steal golf balls from the course, mistaking them for eggs, while leopards have also been spotted stalking the grounds of the Royal Nepal Golf Club.
Monsoons are common in Nepal, but that doesn’t stop Sherpa from playing on sodden fairways in driving rain.
Her commitment to the game, in a country with only 700 registered players and four golf courses, is absolute.
“Mostly in Nepal, people think golf is a very expensive game and that there’s no future for them in golf,” says Sherpa.
“I would like to talk to them about golf. I’m here because of golf. It’s true, golf is very expensive, but there is everyone to support us. If you have talent, everyone will support you: you have to have talent, you have to work hard, and then the success will come.”
The Royal Nepal Golf Club has granted Sherpa free membership where, under the watchful of coach Sachin Bhattarai, she continues to practice each day.
Her family home is humble, a small maintenance shed with no running water where her parents tend to the greens. In her bedroom, alongside a cabinet of trophies, Sherpa keeps one of her most prized possessions that predates her meeting with Woods.
“Dear Pratima,” begins the framed letter, “it’s Tiger. I wanted to tell you how proud I am of your accomplishment to play at such a high level and inspire others.”
The letter is dated from January 3, 2017. Even in her wildest dreams, Sherpa could never have guessed that, just over a year after receiving that letter, she would get to meet her idol in person.
“Even before I played golf, I had heard his name. He’s my best golfer, my hero,” she says.
“When I got his letter I was so excited. It made me so proud and it’s kind of like motivation for me.”
This September, Sherpa will play at Nepali Q School, with the goal of one day competing on the LPGA Tour.
Getting there would be groundbreaking for her country, but also for her family.
“Me, my Mum and Dad, we all want a new house to live in,” says Sherpa. “I think that day will come.”