A life of success and amazing wealth beckons for a Leeds teenager. Jayne Dawson reports
o one could say teenager Kiran Matharu was born with a silver spoon in her mouth – she helps out in her parents off-licence, shares a bedroom above the shop with her young brother and watches the TV soaps in her spare time.
Her life in inner-city Leeds has none of the flashy trappings more affluent girls of Kiran's age might boast – but, amazingly, everyone who knows her expects Kiran to be a multi-millionaire within a year.
For the shy 17-year-old has an incredible talent that means huge management companies who represent major stars are falling over themselves to sign her up when she turns 18, and she will soon be having to adjust to superstar status.
The reason is that in her other life, the one not spent hanging out with her former school friends from Allerton Grange School in Leeds or serving customers at Bubbly's News and Booze in Swarcliffe, Kiran is a golfer: an extraordinary golfer who is now the best woman player in the country and one of the best in the world with, for those who understand the game, an almost unheard of handicap of plus 3.4 .
And more than that, as well as being awesomely gifted she has the added value of being a pretty, athletic girl with a size ten figure. In the world of golf Kiran is the complete package – one of the new breed of gorgeous girls fast replacing the older generation of altogether plainer female players.
At the moment she is an amateur player, albeit one who represents her country and is best mates with the likes of Nick Faldo, but when she is 18 she will turn professional and a life of success and amazing wealth beckons.
It's the kind of real-life fairytale that is hard to believe but what makes it even more extraordinary is that, while most proteges are coached from toddler age, Kiran only picked up a golf club aged 11, and then only to pass the time while her dad Amarjit was enjoying a day out on a pay-and-play course.
He said: "One of my suppliers invited me so I went and I took Kiran and her brother with me. She was hitting some balls on the driving range but I wasn't really paying any attention when one of the club professionals came up to me and said he had been watching Kiran and that she had a natural talent.
"I actually thought he must be a bit weird and completely ignored what he said."
But Amarjit, who had been a keen golfer in the past got the bug after his day out and visited the Wike Ridge golf course once more, taking Kiran with him again, even though she was more interested in girl bands than golf clubs. She said: "I didn't know anything about the game, I just went along with my dad."
This time the professional coach introduced himself as Neil Harvey and had a coffee with Amarjit.
"He told me he had seen hundreds of children play and never seen one hit a ball like Kiran. I found it hard to believe. I had been a decent golfer when I played regularly but I had always found it a difficult game to master."
But it seemed that his daughter had that holy grail: natural, unforced, untutored, talent.
"He said most players hit the ball mechanically because they are following the rules they have been taught, but Kiran had a natural grace."
Amarjit was finally convinced and the next day he went out – without telling Kiran – and bought her a second hand set of women's golf clubs for 125 and her other life as a golfing genius began.
Kiran joined Cookridge Hall golf club in Leeds and began taking things seriously, with startling results.
She won a Leeds schools tournament by an embarrassingly wide margin, started playing for Yorkshire and by the age of 13 was in the England girls squad, and it's all been onwards and upwards from there.
Kiran plays her matches in front of large crowds theses days but though she is a quiet, unassuming girl, nerves don't hinder her: "I do get nervous at first but I don't show it and I soon calm down."
Now she trains five days a week for hours at a time, spends much of her time playing abroad for Great Britain and Ireland, is waiting to see if she has been selected for the Curtis Cup team when British women play American women, is friends with Nick Faldo who says she is the best woman golfer he has ever seen and hobnobs with showbiz stars like Westlife, who recently presented her with a junior sports personality of the year award.
And she has one simple ambition: "I want to be the best woman player in the world," she says.
In terms of talent, the 17-year-old is now in the same league as major stars like Michelle Wei.
If she soon matches them in wealth it will be in stark contrast to the present situation where Kiran is earning nothing and her family is struggling to pay the 10,000 it costs for her to travel the world playing tournaments out of their 35,000 a year income.
Amarjit and wife Gurbakash used to run the HQ bar in Chapel Allerton, but gave it up to take over their off-licence and live in the three-bedroomed accommodation above the shop so that they could commit more time to helping Kiran develop her talent. If it turns out she has to move to America to make her fortune, then the whole family will move
Amarjit said: "She has been approached by top management companies who expect her earnings to be something between 1.5m and 3m a year. Michelle Wei is a bit better player than Kiran at the moment but she has been playing since she was four years old."
The family has not yet decided who she will sign with, it is literally all to play for since Kiran has all the money-spinning qualities management companies are seeking.
As for those who inevitably accuse Amarjit, who is Kiran's caddie, of being the power behind the throne, he says that isn't true.
"Kiran has a passion for the game and to be a success she is prepared to work as hard as it takes. We are English and the English attitude is that everything should be enjoyable, but we are also Indian, my parents were from the Punjab, and we have the disciplined Indian attitude that it is worth working hard to achieve success.
"Kiran is a one-off, and we know she is going to have incredible success. She is going to be a superstar, but we want her to also be a normal, nice girl with her feet on the ground – that is why she works in the shop."
Kiran has her own dream: "I'd like to buy a house that we could all live in and a big car for me to drive."