Golf in DUBAi lauds Morocco’s Haddioui for Olympics qualification

Maha Haddioui
Updated 20 July 2016

Golf in DUBAi lauds Morocco’s Haddioui for Olympics qualification

DUBAI: Promoters and organizers of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters have hailed Morocco’s trailblazing golfer Maha Haddioui, who has qualified for the Rio Olympics, calling it a ground-breaking achievement for women’s golf in the Arab world.
“Being the only Arab in the 60-player field, Maha’s qualification for the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza will leave a lasting legacy for the future generations, but her winning a medal there could well change the way the game is played in the region,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi.
“Maha has emerged as role model for aspiring female golfers not only Morocco, but in the entire region.
“Morocco is leading the way when it comes to professional golf in the Arab world, and it’s definitely important for people from other countries to see how their golfers are shaping up.
“The rising standard of the game in the country is certainly a tribute to years of investment in golf from the royal family,” he said, adding: “Maha is optimistic and so is the Arab world.”
The Moroccan ace will carry the hopes and expectations of the entire Arab world when she tees it up at next month’s Summer Olympics where the game is making its long-awaited return after 112 years.
“My ultimate goal is to be the top player in the world, but playing the Olympics and getting a medal is the ultimate dream,” said Haddioui, who believes the experience of regularly playing in world-class events like the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and the Lalla Meryem Cup would come in handy on the Olympic golf course.
“I know it is going to be incredibly challenging to win a medal, but I’m going to give it my all. I am upbeat and focused as I am quite used to the high pressure that comes with playing in big tournaments,” said the Moroccan, who is also the only Arab woman to earn full playing status on the Ladies European Tour.
“But, it would be absolutely amazing representing Morocco and being part of the African contingent at the Olympic Games. I am looking forwards to the honor,” she added.
“We have had some great Moroccan athletes who have made the country proud, and my dream is to follow in their footsteps," said the 27-year-old from Agadir.
With 22 medals — 18 in athletics and three in boxing — Morocco enjoys a strong a strong pedigree of world-class athletes led by Hicham El Guerrouj, who boasts two gold and one silver medals.
Saïd Aouita, with one gold and one silver, is the other multiple medal winner while Nawal El Moutawakel created history at the 1984 Los Angeles, becoming the first Arab woman to win a gold medal, a feat she achieved in 400-meter hurdles.
“It’s a little girl’s dream, even if you are 27, you still have a dream to win a medal. It’s something really strong in my heart. If that happens it will sort of inspire other women in the Arab world to take up golf,” said the US-educated professional, who is supported by Trophée Hassan II Association (ATH).
Haddioui spent four years at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, to fine tune her talents before turning professional in 2011. She was a four-time All American scholar and NCGA First-team All American, graduating with a Masters in Accounting and International Business.
Keeping a quiet mind is her mantra for what she called an important week for her. “As soon as I am set up on the ball, nothing else matters. Once I have made my decision, I just go for it. That’s it, I don’t think about anything.”
Elaborating on her positive mindset, she said: “I have a set routine with myself that involves a lot of thinking of a happy place, a happy smell and a happy sound. It’s like a trigger before I play every golf shot.

“It has worked for me in practice rounds and, hopefully, it will work during the competition as well. Let’s see.”


College golfer in hijab out to blaze trail for Muslim girls

Updated 19 April 2019

College golfer in hijab out to blaze trail for Muslim girls

  • One of the top junior golfers in Northern California coming out of high school, Ahmed was a starter in her first year at Nebraska and the No. 2 player most of this spring
  • She is believed to be the only golfer at the college level or higher who competes in a hijab

LINCOLN: Noor Ahmed outwardly lives her Muslim faith, and even growing up in a state as diverse as California she says she encountered hostility on the street, in school and on the golf course.
One of the top junior golfers in Northern California coming out of high school, Ahmed was a starter in her first year at Nebraska and the No. 2 player most of this spring. She is believed to be the only golfer at the college level or higher who competes in a hijab, the headscarf worn in adherence to the Muslim faith.
Arriving in Lincoln two years ago, Ahmed sensed hesitancy from teammates mostly from small Midwestern towns and unaccustomed to seeing a woman in a hijab. She didn’t feel embraced until an unfortunate yet unifying event roiled the campus midway through her freshman year.
A video surfaced of a student claiming to be the “most active white nationalist in the Nebraska area,” disparaging minorities and advocating violence. The student, it turned out, was in the same biology lecture class as Ahmed.
Teammates offered to walk with her across campus, and one who would become her best friend, Kate Smith, invited Ahmed to stay with her. She didn’t accept but was heartened by the gesture.
“That,” Smith said, “was when she realized how much each and every one of us care for her on the team, that it wasn’t just like, ‘Hey you’re our teammate.’ No, it’s ‘We want you to be safe, we want you to feel at home here.’“
Having grown up in the post-9/11 era, Ahmed, like many Muslims in the United States, has been a target for bullying and verbal abuse. She began wearing the hijab in middle school.
On the course, in an airport or even walking across campus she can feel the long stares and notices the glances. She said she has never been physically threatened — “that I know of” — and that most of the face-to-face insults came before she arrived at Nebraska.
Much of the venom spewed at her now comes on social media. She has been the subject of several media profiles, and each sparks another round of hateful messages. She acknowledges she reads but doesn’t respond to messages and that an athletic department sports psychologist has helped her learn how to deal with them.

Hijabi golfer Noor Ahmed. (AP)

“I’ve been called every racial slur in the book,” she said. “I’ve been told explicitly that people who look like me don’t play golf, we don’t have a right to exist in America, you should go home. It would definitely faze me a little bit, but it never deterred me. I’m really stubborn, so I’m going to prove you wrong, just wait. When people think they’re dragging me down, it kind of fuels the fire in me that I’m going to be a better golfer, I’m going to be a better student, I’m going to keep climbing up the ladder.”
The daughter of Egyptian immigrants is from a close-knit family in Folsom, California, and she steeled herself for the cultural adjustment she would have to make at Nebraska.
She dealt with loneliness and anxiety, especially her freshman year. She had difficulty finding a support network. There is a small Muslim community on campus, but she didn’t immerse herself in it. The demands on athletes are great, and they are largely segregated, eating and studying in facilities separate from those used by regular students.
Nebraska coach Robin Krapfl said she was initially concerned about how teammates would react to Ahmed. Krapfl remembered meeting with her golfers and telling them about her.
“I could tell by a couple of the looks and maybe even a comment or two that they weren’t 100 percent comfortable with that,” Krapfl said. “A lot of our girls come from small-town communities that are very limited in their ethnicity. It’s just the fear of the unknown. They had just never been exposed to being around someone from the Muslim faith.”
Krapfl said she saw a golfer or two roll their eyes, another shook her head. “I overheard, ‘Why would Coach bring someone like that on the team?’ “
“Luckily when she got here people could see her for who she was and the quality of person she was,” Krapfl said. “It took a while. It really did. You’ve got to get to know somebody, who they really are and not just what they look like.”
Smith said she sometimes cringes when she and Ahmed are in a group and the conversation turns to politics, immigration or even fashion, like when someone innocently or ignorantly tells Ahmed that she would look good in a short dress or a certain hairstyle.
“She can never wear a short dress, so why would you want to depict her as that?” Smith said. “You have to respect her beliefs and why she’s doing it. Also, I think a lot of things are connected to women’s beauty standards and how people don’t think she can look beautiful when she’s covered. I think she’s a really beautiful girl no matter how much skin she’s showing.”
For all the challenges Ahmed faced, there have been positives. Some people have complimented her for living her faith as she sees fit, a Muslim teen who golfs in a hijab and lives in the United Kingdom wrote to says she draws inspiration from her, and a player for another college team approached her at an event to tell her she recently converted to Islam and just wanted to say hi.

She started playing golf at 8. (AP)

“I remember going and crying and, wow, I’m not alone out here,” she said.
Ahmed said she’s naturally shy and a bit uncomfortable with the attention, but she hopes Muslim girls coming up behind her are watching.
“I grew up never seeing anyone like me,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize how much grief I was carrying, having never seen an image of myself or someone who looked like me in popular American culture. It’s a big deal.
“Why are basketball and football so heavily African American? If I were black and I saw people who looked like me competing in that sport, that’s probably the sport I would choose. I think it’s really important when we’re talking about trying to make golf and other sports and other areas in American culture diverse, how important it is to see someone who looks like you and how it will fuel other people’s interest.”
Ahmed started playing golf at 8, and her parents encouraged her to take the sport to the highest level possible. Wearing the hijab has never interfered with her game and she has never considered not wearing it on the course.
“I think Muslim women who choose to observe it or choose not to observe it have the right to exist in any space they want to be in,” she said, “and I would feel like I would be sending a message that the hijab doesn’t exist in this place or it shouldn’t, and I don’t feel comfortable with that.”