Sharmila Nicollet Enters a Tournament With an Assist From Social Media
Five years ago, shortly before turning 21, Sharmila Nicollet became the youngest Indian woman to qualify for the Ladies European Tour. The accomplishment resonated in her native country, which does not have much of a golfing tradition, particularly for women. Her popularity soon soared to heights usually reserved for star cricket players.
Since then, Nicollet has had injuries to her wrist, toes, and back that have hindered her professional career. She is not among the 1,246 women included in the world golf rankings. Still, she has built a following that few athletes with her credentials can match. Nicollet, 26, has more than 359,000 followers on Twitter and more than 110,000 on Instagram.
Nicollet’s social media presence helped her gain entrance into the ShopRite L.P.G.A. Classic, which starts Friday at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club in Galloway, N.J. It will be her first time competing in a professional tournament in the United States.
Tournament organizers decided to award one of its sponsor exemptions via a poll conducted on Twitter during the first week of May. They selected the four players for the poll — Nicollet, Blair O’Neal, Carly Booth and Susana Benavides — based on data from MVPindex, a company that tracks sports figures’ and entertainers’ social media followings. Shawn Spieth, the father of the PGA Tour player Jordan Spieth, is a co-founder of MVPindex.
When Nicollet found out about the contest, she spread the word to her fans and won with 39 percent of the votes.