JEDDAH: Some of the biggest names in women’s golf on Tuesday shared their experiences of the sport ahead of this week’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International, encouraging women and girls in the Kingdom to give it a go.
English Major winner Georgia Hall and three-time Major winner Anna Nordqvist are among those competing in the tournament, as well as three Moroccan professional players.
At a pre-tournament press conference, Hall advised Saudi women and girls to start playing golf and to have fun with it. After that, she said, they might consider taking up the sport and think of it differently.
“I started when I was seven years old and I just really enjoy trying to make contact with the golf ball and try and hit it as hard as I could,” she told Arab News. “That’s the advice I would give to start off, just you know, have a lot of fun with it.
“Golf can be a lot of fun as well, especially if you’re going with friends and you can make loads of little different games up. So, I think number one is just to have fun and see where you are with it. Because everyone’s different, wants to take up the game. Some find it easier than others. But yeah, I think, just have fun.”
The four-day tournament starts Thursday and runs until Sunday at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, near Jeddah.
On Friday there will be a ladies’ day, a first for the tournament, with a free golf lesson and other activities on offer.
Nordqvist told Arab News: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity just to obviously watch women’s golf. There are so many talents coming. There are so many good girls and they’re so shiny now. It’s a cool experience. And I think a lot of people might never be to a golf tournament in person and I think it’ll be quite a different experience.”
The debut Aramco Saudi Ladies International, back in 2020, was a landmark moment for women’s sport in the Kingdom as it was the first professional, international women’s sporting event to be held in Saudi Arabia.
This year’s tournament includes the participation of three Arab golfers including Maha Haddioui, the first Arab woman to play on the Ladies European Tour.
She said that nobody could say anything about golf until they had tried it. “It’s really important to get everybody to try and come and watch. You won’t be interested in golf if you don’t try it. I tried curling a week ago, and it’s a sport I had no interest in.”
She also spoke about being a minority in the golfing world, specifically as an Arab woman.
“I never felt any difference because I was a woman that wasn’t given a chance back home to pursue a career in golf or anything. The only problem I had at the time was that I was really the only one. So it was, you know, I couldn’t go and play the world championships as an amateur, because I wouldn’t go on my own at any team events.
“But other than that, I was given the same chance as the men. People would think because I am from an Arab country maybe I wasn’t given a chance. But yes, I was given the same chance as men in the game. There’s quite a decent growing women’s section in the UAE. There are some good players in Tunisia as well. I know one of them, actually, (she) was here in Royal Greens last year.”
Morocco’s Ines Laklalech, 24, played as an amateur at the Aramco Saudi Ladies International in 2020 and will be playing as a professional for the first time in this tournament.
She said she never felt any gender inequality when playing golf in her home country. She played in male teams as there were not enough female players to form a team.
“As a girl playing golf in my country, I am not having obstacles playing the game. Although I was one of the only girls in my golf club, where most of the time I played with the boys with the guys, there was no category, like a woman or girl category because there were not enough girls. And I think it’s a good thing. It has opened my mind to many things.”
Fellow Moroccan Lina Belmati will also be playing as a first-time professional in the tournament. She said: “I am so glad for playing in this tournament and I hope I can make the Arab world proud.”
An awards ceremony will be held on the tournament’s final day, March 20, to announce the winner.
The first tournament had a positive impact on the Kingdom, with more than 1,000 Saudi women and girls signing up to learn how to play golf over the course of the event as part of Golf Saudi’s Ladies First Club free coaching initiative.