Golf sisters thrive on the green since move from India


Thomas Frey - The State Hornet

Sacramento State sophomore Nishtha, left, and senior Astha Madan, right, helped lead the women’s golf team to its first Big Sky Conference Championship since 2007.

Thomas Frey

In 2010, sisters Astha and Nishtha Madan made it their goal to earn a college golf scholarship in the United States while at The Shri Ram School in Gurgaon, India.

Astha, now a senior, was in ninth grade, and Nishtha, a sophomore, was in seventh grade.

The sisters went directly to the golf course each day after school at 2:30 p.m. to work on driving, putting and specific shots, like hitting out of the sand, rough or fairway. The pair pushed themselves until the sun went down. During the summer, they would play in amateur tournaments all around India.

The sisters grew up in Gurgaon, India, where Astha began playing sports from the time she was about 5 years old. Nishtha, who is two years younger, eagerly waited for her chance to play, as she watched Astha participate in swimming, tennis, golf, track and soccer.

They each played multiple sports for about five years until Astha turned 10 before honing in their focus on just two sports.

“We were playing a lot of sports for fun,” Astha said, “But after a point, we just played golf and tennis.”

As each year passed, they were hitting the ball farther and more accurately on the golf course.

Their skills earned them chances to travel and play golf all around the world. First, Astha would qualify for international tournaments, then about two years later, Nishtha got her chance on the same stages. The Madan sisters played in countries like South Korea, Japan, Colombia and the United States.

“I was not planning on staying in India for college,” Astha said. “I had set a goal to play collegiate golf and had been working towards that ever since.”

Courtesy of Astha Madan
Sacramento State sophomore golfer Nishtha Madan practices her swing Thursday, Oct. 26 at the Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento, California.

In the summer before her final year of high school, Astha was one of three girls from India to qualify for the 2013 Junior World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

She finished with scores of 74 in each of her first two rounds on the same course that hosted the 2008 U.S. Open.

After her final round, Astha had two recruiting visits scheduled. The first to San Diego State and the second to the University of San Francisco. On her visit to San Diego State, the coach told Astha that she didn’t have any remaining scholarships available. The Aztecs coach knew that Astha was visiting USF the next day and recommended that she also visit Sacramento State.

Sac State coach David Sutherland never had a player referred to him like this, but he knew who Astha was. Astha said she quickly came to the conclusion that not only did Sutherland have about a decade of experience on the PGA Tour, but he also knew how to keep things relaxed and fun with the team. She said she fell in love with the fact that she could play golf year-round and that there are several golf courses near the university.

It took just one day to change her collegiate path, as she committed to Sac State. The ripple effect would change the life of her sister, Nishtha, who followed Astha to Sacramento two years later.

Astha was away from her family and her country for the first time in her life. The biggest difference, she said, was the way people act, but being on a team helps.

“It’s almost polar opposite,” Astha said. “India is community-based. But golf is a team sport in college, and our team dynamic is so good. The team feels more like a family.”

Astha thrived as a freshman: she won the Matador Invitational, finished in a tie for second place at the Big Sky Championship and was named Big Sky Co-Freshman of the Year. She then dropped her freshman scoring average from 76.18 to 75.28 (third in school history) as a junior and is averaging 74.11 as a senior.

Nishtha continued to play in India during Astha’s first two years in college before coming to Sacramento herself.

“The coach seemed like a great person, and I loved how green it is,” Nishtha said. “It was a pretty easy decision.”

In her junior year, Astha was able to mentor and help acclimate incoming freshman Nishtha and Sofie Babic from Sweden, who was also new to the United States.

“She was definitely helpful,” Babic said. “She is a really good friend and person. I know she will always be there if I need her.”

Despite the family dynamic, the team struggled early last season with three of the team’s five starters being freshmen or sophomore. However, the Hornets improved as the season went on, as they won two of their final three tournaments, including the Big Sky Championship where Astha hit the winning shot on a playoff hole. It was the team’s first conference title since 2007.

Nishtha’s average of 75.55 as a freshman was fifth in school history, and she is on pace to break that this season. Meanwhile, Astha is closing out her senior season with goals of joining the Ladies Professional Golf Association after she graduates. According to Sutherland, her short game and mental approach are at a professional level, and she is getting stronger on her drives.

“I don’t think any player has ever graduated from here having the effect Astha had,” Sutherland said. “I don’t even want to think about what our program will be without her. Astha is a really great leader to this group.”