Haya Alsulaiman’s mission to empower women through golf in Middle East

Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 April 2024
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Haya Alsulaiman’s mission to empower women through golf in Middle East

Haya Alsulaiman’s mission to empower women through golf in Middle East
  • Saudi owner of Golftec Dubai is offering new avenue to embrace a sport long seen as a male domain

DUBAI: Thirty-one-year-old Haya Ghassan Alsulaiman, Saudi owner of the Dubai-based golf coaching center Golftec, is hoping to encourage more women to play the sport in the Middle East.

Already one of the US’ most popular institutions for golf development, Golftec — with Alsulaiman at the helm — launched in 2023 at Dubai City Walk.

The organization was initially founded in 1995 in the basement of a Denver, Colorado, country club, and has since become a household name around the world, operating in six countries, with more than 210 locations employing in excess of 800 full-time golf coaches.

However, it remains little known in the Middle East.

Alsulaiman is ready to change that across the UAE and wider region and, in the process, empower more women to embrace a sport that has long been seen as the domain of men.

“I am used to being the only woman in a male-dominated industry,” Alsulaiman told Arab News, explaining that she had previously worked for her father’s automotive dealership in Saudi where she was the only female employee among more than 200 men.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Alsulaiman would vacation in California with her family every summer, and would regularly play tennis with her father.

When her father injured his knee, he switched to golf and learned how to play with Golftec.

“It was much easier for my father to understand the sport with this type of learning facility,” she said. “Then he encouraged my sister to get involved by first becoming his caddy.

“The more she went with my father, the more she desired to play,” Alsulaiman said. “Then she suggested to take lessons with him at Golftec.”

Haya soon caught the bug and joined her father and sister in taking golf classes.

From 2014 she began playing golf each summer during the family holiday in California.

“The routine was to take a lesson or two at Golftec and then go out on the range to practice what we were taught in the lesson and then, two days after, go play on an official golf course,” she said. “That was our routine, week after week.”

Alsulaiman developed a great love for the sport. However, when she returned to Saudi after the summer, she had nowhere to practice and play.

“In Saudi there were not the facilities for golf that there are today and no coaches, so we could only play in the summer,” she said. “We played from summer to summer. The sport bonded our family. We so enjoyed it. We laughed, had fun and engaged in family friendly competition.”

After the pandemic, Alsulaiman decided to leave Saudi Arabia and move to Dubai. Following her father’s entrepreneurial spirit, she opened her own business — Golftec’s first branch in the Middle East.

The business allows her to do what she loves and, she said, encourage more women to play the sport.

While golf has become a popular sport in the UAE, with many golf courses and training centers, Alsulaiman said that there was nothing that matched Golftec’s teaching methodology, with the advanced use of motion technology and video feedback making it easy for trainees to follow. She also finds the learning environment less intimidating than that of a golf club.

“It’s relaxed and fun and is a perfect place to encourage more women to learn,” she said.

Just under a decade ago the idea of a Saudi female golfer would have been hard to imagine. Today, thanks to a slew of social reforms under Saudi Vision 2030, golf and many other sports are increasingly accessible to women across the country.

In 2020, the inaugural Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund was held at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, signaling a turning point for women’s golf in the Kingdom.

The event also launched a comprehensive national golf sustainability strategy that oversees the environmental, economic and social aspects of the sport.

In December 2023, the Royal Diriyah Golf Club was unveiled in an event that saw Saudi women and men take to the Greg Norman-designed golf course for the first time alongside international guests.

Abeer Al-Johani, director of the Federation Office at the Saudi Golf Federation, said that the strides women were making in the sport reflected the social and economic changes in the Kingdom.

“Saudi women aside, women playing golf need much more sport, more media coverage and more opportunities,” Al-Johani told Arab News. “We need similar encouragement to what men receive but I believe we are beginning to see a lot of change — a lot of women are supporting other women in the sport specifically.”

Alsulaiman and Golftec are more than playing their part in making that happen.


US Anti-Doping Agency blasts WADA’s Banka over ‘hit job’ on US athletes

US Anti-Doping Agency blasts WADA’s Banka over ‘hit job’ on US athletes
Updated 21 May 2024
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US Anti-Doping Agency blasts WADA’s Banka over ‘hit job’ on US athletes

US Anti-Doping Agency blasts WADA’s Banka over ‘hit job’ on US athletes
  • The US agency said Banka had distorted facts “to deflect from the real concerns the world has about how WADA allowed China to sweep 23 positive tests under the carpet”
  • On Friday, Banka cited three US doping cases that resulted from environmental contamination, as the Chinese swimmers’ cases have also been ruled

LOS ANGELES: The US Anti-Doping Agency on Monday accused World Anti-Doping Agency president Witold Banka of smearing US athletes in a bid to divert attention from WADA’s handling of the case of 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive before the Tokyo Olympics.

In a statement released on Monday, USADA responded to comments made by Banka during an extraordinary virtual meeting of WADA’s Foundation Board on Friday.

The US agency said Banka had distorted facts “to deflect from the real concerns the world has about how WADA allowed China to sweep 23 positive tests under the carpet.”

WADA came under fire in April after it was revealed that the Chinese swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine — which can enhance performance — ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

The swimmers were not suspended or sanctioned after WADA accepted the explanation of Chinese authorities that the positive tests for the prescription heart drug were caused by food contamination at a hotel where they had stayed.

USADA chief Travis Tygart has called the situation a “potential cover-up.”

On Friday, Banka cited three US doping cases that resulted from environmental contamination, as the Chinese swimmers’ cases have also been ruled.

But USADA noted on Monday that the three US contamination cases were made public and resulted in violations and disqualifications for the named athletes.

Banka also pointed to “inconsistent rule implementation in the US” and claimed that 90 percent of American athletes — in professional leagues and college sport — do not compete under the world anti-doping code.

USADA said that remark was “a particularly manipulative comment in an effort to indicate that 90 percent of US athletes are dirty and only 10 percent are clean.”

USADA noted leagues such as the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball have their own anti-doping systems, and that it was “incredibly reckless for the President of WADA to suggest these sports do not have robust and effective programs and that their athletes are not clean.

“Simply put, these comments are harmful and an insult to all athletes in these leagues and to the leagues themselves,” USADA said, noting that college athletes become subject to WADA rules when they take part in competitions sanctioned by international governing bodies.

“There is nothing more classic in a cover-up than diversion and smoke and mirrors,” USADA said.

“The second most classic response to a cover-up is to attack the messenger, which is the current situation as Banka and surrogates plumb the depths of misinformation and half-truths to make personal attacks, even stooping so low as to attempt a hit job on all US athletes.”


Youth movement: NBA’s 20-something stars set to battle in conference finals

Youth movement: NBA’s 20-something stars set to battle in conference finals
Updated 21 May 2024
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Youth movement: NBA’s 20-something stars set to battle in conference finals

Youth movement: NBA’s 20-something stars set to battle in conference finals
  • Boston’s 26-year-old Jayson Tatum and 27-year-old Jaylen Brown are already experienced hands after the Celtics reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons
  • Kyrie Irving, traded to the Mavericks in February 2023, has seen close-up what Doncic and the rest of the league’s rising stars bring to the table

LOS ANGELES: The NBA conference finals starting Tuesday will showcase a new generation of stars as the Boston Celtics take on Indiana in the East and Dallas clash with Minnesota in the West for a place in the NBA Finals.

Boston’s 26-year-old Jayson Tatum and 27-year-old Jaylen Brown are already experienced hands after the Celtics reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons.

They made it to the championship series in 2022 but fell to the Golden State Warriors then were stunned by eighth-seeded Miami in the conference finals last year.

In the Pacers they’ll face a high-octane offense led by 24-year-old Tyrese Haliburton while in the West 25-year-old Luka Doncic will lead the Mavericks against 22-year-old Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kyrie Irving, traded to the Mavericks in February 2023, has seen close-up what Doncic and the rest of the league’s rising stars bring to the table.

“They have no fear,” Irving said after the Mavericks polished off a six-game victory over the top-seeded Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals.

“They want to kill our records. They want to kill us every time they get on the court,” said Irving, an eight-time All-Star who won a title with Cleveland in 2016.

“That was the first thing I noticed about Luka, that he just had no fear going against the best in the world,” Irving said. “He always walks around like he’s the best player in the world. I think that’s the confidence of a champion. That’s where it starts.”

LeBron James is still a force at 39 but his Lakers were swept by Denver in the first round of the playoffs.

The Timberwolves swept Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns out of the first round when the Pacers took care of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors didn’t make it out of the play-in and three-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets were subdued in seven games in the West semis by Minnesota.

Edwards, averaging 28.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists in the playoffs, showed his maturity in Game 7, when he shook off a poor shooting night to dig in on the defensive end and help author one of the greatest Game 7 comeback wins in NBA history.

“I’m not one-dimensional,” declared Edwards, whose stellar season has seen him tabbed for the US Olympic team.

But Irving thinks Doncic has the edge in maturity. The Slovenian star is in the playoffs for the fourth time, his longest prior run a trip to the conference finals in 2022.

Irving says Doncic is set to shine with a new supporting cast around him — not least himself.

The Mavs, seeking to add to the lone NBA title they won in 2011, host the Timberwolves in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Celtics, who share the record for most NBA titles at 17, host the Pacers in Game 1 on Tuesday, with Brown and Tatum aiming to become the latest to lead Boston to the crown.

“We’ve just been in a lot of battles together,” Tatum said of his partnership with Brown. “Seven years as teammates. He’s been in the conference finals six times, this is my fifth time.

“(We’re) really getting to a stage where we understand what we can do individually. We know how gifted we are offensively, but each night just kind of presents different challenges ... both of us are capable on the basketball court to do literally everything.”

The Pacers’ Haliburton is in unfamiliar territory, but he can rely on the experience of Pascal Siakam, an NBA champion with Toronto who was acquired from the Raptors in January.

After surprising in the regular season — and earning national attention with their run to the final of the new in-season tournament — the Pacers are out to prove they can flout conventional wisdom and use their up-tempo offense to carry them all the way.

“Well, we’re the uninvited guest,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of sixth-seeded Indiana’s arrival in the conference finals. “So here we are, OK.”


Siblings trying to make US water polo teams for Paris Olympics

Siblings trying to make US water polo teams for Paris Olympics
Updated 21 May 2024
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Siblings trying to make US water polo teams for Paris Olympics

Siblings trying to make US water polo teams for Paris Olympics
  • Chase and Ryder Dodd are trying to make the men’s roster, alongside Dylan and Quinn Woodhead, while Ella Woodhead is in the mix for the loaded women’s squad
  • The women’s team is going to be announced on May 30, and the men’s team will be unveiled on June 18

WALNUT, California: Chase Dodd started swimming when he was just a kid. Once he began playing water polo, he was hooked.

When Ryder Dodd got a chance to follow his older brother, he was in.

“When I was around 6 years old, my mom was just like, ‘You want to hop in and play?’” Ryder Dodd said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, of course I do.’”

That’s how it started for the Dodds, the very beginning of their road to USA Water Polo and, quite possibly, the Paris Olympics this summer. For Dylan, Quinn and Ella Woodhead, it’s a similar story.

The US water polo teams for this year’s Olympics could have a much deeper connection than just a mutual love of their grueling sport. Chase and Ryder Dodd are trying to make the men’s roster, alongside Dylan and Quinn Woodhead, while Ella Woodhead is in the mix for the loaded women’s squad.

The women’s team is going to be announced on May 30, and the men’s team will be unveiled on June 18.

“It’s interesting, just seeing the brotherly dynamic,” US men’s captain Ben Hallock said, “how they’re different, how they’re similar, what makes them special. ... So sort of seeing the traits that make them so good, but also a little bit of bickering and competitiveness is also fun to see.”

An invaluable connection

Dylan Woodhead, a 6-foot-7 defender who turned 25 in September, made his Olympics debut when the US finished sixth in Tokyo. Quinn, a 6-4 attacker, turns 24 next month, and Ella, a 5-10 defender, is 20.

“To have my brother here who I grew up playing with basically my whole career, it’s just special,” Dylan Woodhead said. “My sister, too, going through the same process, it’s just people that you’re more comfortable with. ... Playing with Quinn and talking through things with Ella, you can be brutally honest and that’s invaluable in this line of work.”

The Woodhead siblings are from Northern California. Their mother, Laura, was a swimmer at Stanford, and their father, Jeff, was a rower at California. Dylan and Quinn helped the Cardinal win NCAA title in 2019, and Ella will go back to Stanford after redshirting this season to try out for the US team.

The siblings grew up going to the Big Game — the annual college football showdown between Stanford and Cal. Dylan and his dad rooted for the Bears, and Ella and Quinn joined their mom in cheering for the Cardinal.

“(Dylan) was the first one to decide on Stanford, so kind of flipped the tide right there,” Quinn said.

A grinning Dylan offered a careful description of his father’s reaction to his college choice.

“I don’t know if he ever told me, but my mom said, ‘You know, it really hurt him,’” he cracked. “I think he’s OK with it now, there are worse schools to pick than Stanford in his eyes.”

A family falls for water polo

Dylan, Quinn and Ella got an early start on swimming through their mother. They had a pool in their backyard, and they played water basketball games that occasionally resulted in Ella being put in a headlock by one of the brothers to keep her from scoring.

With water polo, the brothers “found a really good community when we first started playing that we really enjoyed,” Quinn said. Ella vividly remembers going to their games as a kid.

“I was like 7 and 8, up in the stands, watching Dylan and Quinn play, taking stats on my own. Homemade stat sheet that I made,” she said. “So I think before I started playing, I kind of just fell in love with the tactical aspects of the game.”

The Woodhead siblings act as a sounding board for each other as they try to get better at water polo. Dylan and Ella talk about playing defender, and Quinn offers tips on shooting.

Dylan and Quinn also are very competitive, especially when they run into each other at US practice. It’s a similar dynamic with Chase and Ryder Dodd, who are from Southern California.

Chase Dodd, a 6-3 attacker who turned 21 last month, scored 39 times for UCLA during the 2022 season before taking this year off to train with the US team. Ryder, an 18-year-old attacker, is considered one of the sport’s rising prospects.

“We have a really competitive relationship. Almost everything we do is a game,” Chase Dodd said. “Everything we do is competition. It’s always go, go, go, go, go. I think that’s perfect for us playing this game.”

Other siblings to watch at the Paris Olympics

The US track team might have its own family ties. Noah Lyles likely will be among the 200-meter favorites, and his younger brother, Josephus, another sprinter, also is looking to make the US team. The American roster also could have Devon Williams for the decathlon and his sister, Kendell, in the heptathlon.

Siblings Karolien and Finn Florijn are looking to row for the Netherlands in Paris, following in the footsteps of their father, Ronald, who won gold at the Seoul and Atlanta Olympics. Tom and Emily Ford, two more rowing siblings, are hoping to medal for Britain.

Brothers Henrik, Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway are hoping to run in Paris this summer. Ron Polonsky and his sister, Leah, are looking to swim for Israel.


New Liverpool boss Slot admits he could not resist lure of club

New Liverpool boss Slot admits he could not resist lure of club
Updated 21 May 2024
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New Liverpool boss Slot admits he could not resist lure of club

New Liverpool boss Slot admits he could not resist lure of club

LONDON: Arne Slot said the chance to work at one of the world’s biggest clubs was “difficult to ignore” after Liverpool confirmed on Monday that the Feyenoord coach would be their new manager.

Just 24 hours after Jurgen Klopp’s emotional farewell at Anfield, the Premier League club said in a statement that the Dutchman would take up the position of head coach on June 1, subject to a work permit.

The club did not specify the length of Slot’s contract but it was widely reported in the British press that he had signed a three-year deal.

The new manager’s arrival was an open secret, with Liverpool reportedly agreeing a compensation deal worth up to £9.4 million ($12 million) with Feyenoord.

Slot, 45, confirmed Anfield was his next destination at his final pre-match press conference at the Eredivisie club on Friday.

“It is certainly not an easy decision to close the door behind you at a club where you have experienced so many wonderful moments and worked successfully with so many wonderful people,” he told Feyenoord’s website on Monday.

“But as a sportsman, an opportunity to become a head coach in the Premier League, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, is difficult to ignore.”

Klopp, 56, announced in January that the 2023/24 season would be his last at Anfield, and took charge of his final game on Sunday, a 2-0 win against Wolves.

In his farewell speech to the crowd, the German urged fans to throw their full support behind his successor, leading them in a chant of “Arne Slot, na na na na na.”

“You welcome the new manager like you welcomed me,” he said. “You go all-in from the first day. And you keep believing and you push the team.”

Slot, linked with a move to Tottenham last year, became Feyenoord boss in 2021 after impressing in his first managerial role at AZ Alkmaar.

He led the Dutch giants to the inaugural Europa Conference League final at the end of his first season, which they lost 1-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

Slot then delivered just a second league title in 24 years to De Kuip last season before penning a new three-year deal.

Feyenoord have enjoyed a strong season, winning the Dutch Cup and coming second to an all-conquering PSV Eindhoven side in the league.

Under Slot, Feyenoord have delighted the fans at De Kuip with an attacking brand of football and Slot has won praise from Klopp himself.

“I like the way his team plays football. If he is the one, I like that he wants it,” Klopp said last month.

“It’s the best job in the world, best club in the world. Great job, great team, fantastic people. A really interesting job.”

Liverpool captain and fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk has hailed Slot’s attacking mindset, saying it would suit the philosophy at Anfield.

Speaking about the future under the new boss, Van Dijk said: “It is all about sticking together and giving him the chance of showing what he is capable of with the other guys who will come in.

“He probably knows already but everyone knows our expectations are always huge and it is about managing that in the right way and getting the maximum out of all of our players.”

Slot has huge shoes to fill at Anfield after Klopp restored Liverpool to the elite of English and European football during his nine-year reign.

Under his leadership Liverpool won a sixth Champions League crown and a 19th league title, as well as a clutch of other trophies.

Initially, Bayer Leverkusen boss and former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso was the favorite to succeed Klopp at Anfield.

However, Alonso committed to staying at Leverkusen as he led them to a first-ever Bundesliga title.

Liverpool finished third in the Premier League, qualifying for next season’s Champions League, and won the League Cup in Klopp’s final season.


PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis

PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis
Updated 20 May 2024
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PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis

PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis
  • PIF will become first naming partner of the WTA rankings
  • PIF to continue to be a catalyst for growth of women’s sport

NEW YORK: The Public Investment Fund and the Women’s Tennis Association on Monday signed a multiyear partnership to support the growth of women’s professional tennis and inspire more females around the world to take up the sport.
The partnership also aims at enhancing and developing initiatives that support players at all levels.
As a global partner of the WTA, the PIF will become the first naming partner of the organization’s rankings, the highest official rankings for professional women tennis players.
And through the partnership with the WTA, the PIF will continue to be a catalyst for the growth of women’s sport, according to Mohamed Al-Sayyad, the fund’s head of corporate brand.
Al-Sayyad said: “We look forward to working with the WTA to increase participation and inspire the next generation of talent. Underpinned by PIF’s four strategic sponsorship pillars, this partnership aligns with our ambition to elevate the game and bring positive growth to the sport around the world.”
The PIF WTA rankings will track players’ journeys, and the PIF will work with the WTA to celebrate and support players’ progress.
WTA’s CEO Marina Storti said: “We are delighted to welcome PIF as a global partner of the WTA and our first-ever official naming partner of the WTA rankings.
“Together, we look forward to sharing the journey of our talented players across the season, as we continue to grow the sport, creating more fans of tennis and inspiring more young people to take up the game.”
As part of its commitment to inspire youngsters, the PIF will work with the WTA to expand existing initiatives and develop new opportunities for young players, providing a significant boost to the game’s next generation of stars.
The PIF announced its partnership with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) in February and became the official naming partner of the PIF ATP rankings. The PIF has now become the only global partner across both the WTA and ATP tours.
The new partnership between the WTA and the PIF follows the recent announcement that the season-ending WTA Finals will be hosted in Riyadh for the next three years, starting in 2024.