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Haddioui: Playing in the first Saudi ladies golf event means a lot
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 06 - 03 - 2020

The Arab world's first female golfer to compete on Tour has revealed she could never have dreamt of seeing professional women's golf come to Saudi Arabia — let alone a tournament she predicts to be "a big step forward" in growing the ladies game on a global scale.
Morocco's Maha Haddioui — who has played on the Ladies European Tour (LET) since 2012 — will be competing for a share of the $1million prize-pool when the Kingdom's debut Aramco Saudi Ladies International golf tournament gets under way in two weeks' time.
Taking place March 19-22 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on the Kingdom's Red Sea coast, the four-day event will welcome many of the biggest names in the game for what will be Saudi's first ever professional women's competition.
To 31-year-old Haddioui, the tournament is the perfect example of the new opportunities now available to Arab women, and how the Middle East is helping push female sports to new heights.
She said: "I never thought in my life I would go to Saudi to play golf. For me, I thought I'd go to Saudi to do Umrah or go to Makkah. Now, to be able to represent Arab women's golf in Saudi is something amazing — and something I would never have thought to happen.
"I'm really excited that the Arab countries are taking a step forward in actually making women's golf big. The Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco has been one of the largest women's tournaments for years. Now having Saudi Arabia up there with the very biggest in the sport is something I'm hugely proud of as an Arab woman.
"I'm just happy to play in new events no matter where they are, but for me it being in an Arab country means a lot. Playing a professional women's event in Saudi Arabia is amazing and a big step forward as proof that things are really moving forward in a really good way and I am so proud to be part of that, and have the LET be part of that."
Asked about the impact such a leading women's event like Ladies European Tour golf could have on a country like Saudi Arabia, Casablanca-born Haddioui — who has represented Morocco internationally since 2004 — stressed that it could easily help transform the sporting ambitions of the Kingdom's female population.
She said: "As a professional player, I get a lot of questions along the lines of: ‘Is this your job? How can you have this as a job?'.
"In response, I always give the comparison with professional football players, and how they travel the world playing their sport. As soon as I explain that it opens people's minds and they understand that a woman from our culture, from our part of the world, can do a job like this.
"When little girls look at that, they realize they can do the same — and not just with golf, with any sport. I think it's really important to have someone you can look to who has already done these things, reached those levels. I pride myself in being able to demonstrate that.
"When I was still an amateur and thinking of turning pro, I was telling everyone. But because no one had done it before they all told me ‘No.' Everyone almost kind of joked about it.
"Today, the young girls in Morocco and places like Saudi Arabia who are thinking about golf and want to take it seriously don't see it as a joke anymore — because somebody has done it. That is something I'm really proud of and I really hope will produce more Arab sportswomen in the future."
The Aramco Saudi Ladies International will welcome many of the biggest names in golf when it begins on March 19, including England's two-time LET Order of Merit winner Georgia Hall, last weekend's NSW Open champion Julia Engstrom, 12-time LET tournament winner Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa, and a host of Solheim Cup and international players.
As well as four-days of live tournament golf, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International will also feature a fun-for-all-the-family Entertainment Zone, packed with food-trucks and have-a-go games and challenges. — SG

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