Maha Haddioui, the only Arab golfer to feature in the Ladies European Tour (LET), believes more golfers from the region will emerge thanks to the inaugural Aramco Saudi International.
The historic tournament tees off on Thursday and has drawn a field of 108 golfers vying for a slice of the $1million prize fund at the Royal Greens Golf Club in Jeddah.
“It’s really important for young golfers to see the players live and the Saudi International offers that opportunity,” Moroccan Haddioui said in a pre-tournament online media event on Tuesday.
“This could attract many young girls to play golf and this tournament can really help to grow the game in the country. It’s a big tournament and a big statement for women’s sports in Saudi Arabia.”
Haddioui, 32, is no stranger to the kingdom. She is making her fourth visit in three years and said she was really happy and proud to be a part of the ground breaking tournament. “I love the course and love the place and I’m really looking forward to the competition,” she said.
It has been quite the journey for Haddioui. She started playing golf at the age of 12 and it was not until she completed her studies in the USA that she thought of playing professionally.
“I’m grateful I picked up the game when I was younger and it completely changed my life,” she said.
“I’m travelling around the world and doing what I love to do. I wish for every woman in the Arab world to pursue these kind of opportunities.
“The hardest thing is people don’t really understand what should be taken as a job.
“I was told a lot of times to take up a 'serious' day job and I had difficulty explaining that playing golf was my job. Taking sports seriously can be a career.”
Haddioui said one of the hardest thing for her was to make people understand why she first started to play golf full time after graduating in the US.
“When I wanted to play golf professionally, people started to doubt my abilities,” she said.
“When people start doing what they love, there will be a lot of great Arab athletes. As for me, I always like to visit places and try new courses but this one holds a bigger meaning for me.
“I played in Saudi for the first time in a men’s tournament three years ago and to return for the first LET is something amazing.”
Solheim Cup star Georgia Hall and Charley Hull from England, who are both returning from last week’s Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic, shared similar sentiments about promoting women’s golf in the region.
“Obviously, it’s massive to have the first Ladies event here and it’s always nice to come into a new country and I’m excited to go into the competition this week,” Hall said.
“I have heard great things about the golf course and definitely this tournament can help younger girls to take up the game."