She’s a Champion Amateur Golfer, Coach, Photographer, and many more: the Many Hats of Noni Lall Qureshi
In 1987, Indian government’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports conferred Noni Lall Qureshi (nee Nonita Lall) the Arjuna Award for her sensational achievement in golf. It was a well-deserved recognition for one of the country’s best amateur golfers, who have won nearly 40 titles and represented India in 12 tournaments including the European Women’s Open and Asian Games.
Noni was one of the key figures who established the National Golf Academy of India (NGAI), the country’s first accredited program for teaching professionals. Coach to the Indian Women’s and Junior Girls Team for four years and to the Indian Men’s team for the Nomura Cup in 2009, Noni is also the Vice President of Women’s PGA of India. Noni is a devoted wife and mother, wildlife enthusiast and photographer, and a volunteer teacher for caddy boys.
For 11 successful years, Noni is arguably India’s most decorated female amateur golfer. In this interview with AddedSport, Noni recounts how her brilliance transcends the golf links.
AS: Seeing all the laurels attached to your name, we are curious as to how it all began. How did you get started with golf?
A lot of people do not know that I never had a “junior” career. Junior golf is a contemporary concept that never existed in my time.
My father introduced and taught me to play golf. I had no formal coaching initially, and had betted on books and my father’s advice. When I started with competitive golf, there were several golf stroke mechanisms that I was not familiar with. My father did a great job teaching me the sport, but there was just so much a hobbyist could teach. I learned a lot on the courses myself, from a good deal of trial and error.
AS: From such humble beginnings as an amateur golfer, you eventually emerged as one of the country’s most successful sportsmen in that arena. What made you decide to explore a career outside amateur golf?
At that time the travel required playing in the amateurs was not ideal for a new mother like me. I felt like playing was no longer the best option given my circumstances, at the same time I want to remain closely associated to the sport.
Meanwhile, Dr. Donato Di Ponziano was sent to India to create a structured program (NGAI) for training golf coaches which eventually marked the birth of formalized training in the country. I was invited to help in the establishment of the program, having extensive experience as an amateur golfer. Teaching at NGAI afforded me both the flexibility I needed and the platform to maintain my involvement with the sport.
AS: Aside from training coaches, you are also a coach. What kind of coach is Noni?
Noni as a coach reflects Noni as a person. I consider myself a multifaceted person, and the same is also true in my coaching. I teach my students the technical side of the sport as a coach, and at the same time I impart them wisdom on a more personal level as a mentor.
AS: It’s interesting that you mentioned being a multifaceted person. What do people don’t know about you?
Most of the people know me as a golfer. My students know me as teacher. For my family, I am a wife and a mother. Yet a lot of people are unaware that I am a wildlife enthusiast and photographer. I am also a musician, and can play the piano and guitar.
Be that as it may, I want to highlight that it is not a matter of what you do or can do, but a matter of how well you do things. I always try to be the best version of myself—as a golfer, coach, teacher, wife, and mother. Even for my hobbies like photography and music I make sure that I reach my level best. For only then I feel that I’ve succeeded in what I set out to do.
AS: Who are your favorite athletes?
All great athletes have inspiring stories. Their struggles, and dedication to their respective sports mark their “greatness”. But I personally like Seve Ballesteros (golf) and Stephan Edberg (tennis) because of their grace on and off the court. Not all can take on the role-model responsibility attached to being an athlete, but these two laudable sportsmen did. In their own refined ways, both of them had demonstrated what it is like being a great athlete and an even greater human being.