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Nepal’s pioneering golfer now counts Tiger as a fan

ESPN's compelling #SCFeatured profile of Pratima Sherpa helps land her meeting, lessons with Woods

Last weekend, ESPN told the story of Pratima Sherpa, a teenager who lives in a maintenance shed on a golf course in Nepal and hopes to become her country’s first female professional golfer.

Presented across multiple ESPN platforms, the story was impactful, even reaching one of the greatest golfers of all time.

Produced by Kristen Lappas from ESPN Features and narrated by Tom Rinaldi, the story premiered as a 30-minute film at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Saturday and then aired Sunday on ESPN. A shortened “SC Featured” version aired Sunday on SportsCenter and written pieces by Rinaldi and Lappas appeared on ESPN.com and in ESPN the Magazine.

Pratima traveled to America to attend Tribeca and to talk with ESPN employees at a screening of the film on ESPN’s campus on Monday. But she also received an unexpected trip to Jupiter, Fla., where on Tuesday she met Tiger Woods and spent 30 minutes with him getting some private golf lessons.

Lappas, Rinaldi and a longtime donor to the Tiger Woods Foundation, David Fontanilla, arranged for her to go to Florida. Fontanilla met her at the Tribeca screening.

Rinaldi, who has interviewed Woods many times, exchanged texts with Woods after the meeting.

“He texted that it was an honor to meet her,” said Rinaldi. “And I think that he’s just struck by her drive and what she’s gone through to pursue her dream.

“Athletes have meet and greets all the time, but this wasn’t that,” said Rinaldi. “He spent significant time with her. He was telling her flare out your left foot, and instructing her. She hit shots out of his bag, and it was just remarkable.”

Victor Vitarelli, ESPN executive producer who oversees ESPN Features, was moved by the impact Pratima’s story had.

“It certainly touched certain nerves throughout the sports world,” he said. “When we find a story that has legs like this one, our goal is to get it on as many platforms as possible so that it can be consumed in as many ways as possible by our fans. Ultimately what we’re trying to do is serve sports fans.

“English isn’t Pratima’s first language, but even in English she’s able to communicate and articulate thoughts that are just captivating,” Vitarelli said. “That’s her aura. It’s pretty powerful to be around her.”

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