Morocco’s Maha Haddioui continues to inspire other regional golfers

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  • Maha Haddioui arrived in the UAE on Monday. Fresh and motivated after a month of practice back at her home club Golf du Soleil Agadir in Morocco.

    Another season has nearly passed and progress has been seen on all levels. Different challenges have presented themselves along the way. But, most importantly, the Agadir native still loves the journey after nearly a decade soldiering on the professional circuit.

    Haddioui, who joined the Ladies European Tour in 2012, has three top-10s from six events this season and will spearhead the Middle East charge at the Dubai Moonlight Classic, which gets underway on November 4.

    It’s two days to go until the prestigious tournament rolls into Emirates Golf Club, where a stacked field including Minjee Lee, Georgia Hall, Lydia Ko and Charley Hull will compete for glory.

    Vying for a share of the $285,000 prize fund will be fierce among the 56 player field, with five players from the confirmed names in the top-50 and one player in the top-ten.

    “This is the strongest field we’ve had since it’s become the Moonlight Classic. It’s going to be interesting. There are a lot of world ranking points to be made,” she said.

    “If you look at the LET schedule from ten years ago, there was only one tournament in Morocco. Today we’ve got Morocco, Saudi [Arabia] with two tournaments and then Dubai. It’s definitely the region that’s growing the most.

    “When I turned professional and played all those events, it was a path that wasn’t walked on before. It was very mysterious and you didn’t know much about it. Golf is coming to our backyard now so it’s really growing.”

    It is eight years since the 31-year-old became the first Moroccan and first Arab to earn playing privileges on the Ladies European Tour. Paving the way for others around the region to take up the game. And hopefully one day more girls will follow in her footsteps.

    It all started when she was a youngster, travelling from Casablanca with her father to watch the professionals play at the Hassan II Trophy and Lalla Meryem Cup in Rabat.

    When you’re young and have no heroes to follow, you have to find your own inspiration. For Haddioui those trips to the capital with her father fed her passion and dream.

    “When I watched them, I was really fascinated and this is what made me want to turn professional and compete,” she said.

    “I think it’s really important to host these events in our region. Youngsters can go to watch, compare themselves and see in person what it is like to play as a professional. Having it in the Middle East is amazing. I’ve been to Saudi a few times and it’s the first time I’ll get to compete there this year.”

    Every professional career has ups and downs. It’s part of the journey and experience. Making mistakes and learning as you go along. No path is the same and everyone has different learnings along the way. Learnings that ultimately shape them into a better person.

    “I am just really experiencing the whole experience, the whole process, ups and downs, seeing progress and loving the game more each day as I learn more. It’s the whole journey. It’s amazing to get on tour and win straight away but it’s also amazing to discover yourself and grow as a person through the game you play,” she said.

    “I couldn’t have asked for a better life when it comes to my golfing career. My goal is to win and I haven’t done that yet.”

    After the Moonlight Classic, Haddioui will travel to King Abdullah Economic City to compete in the world’s first professional women’s golf tournament in the Kingdom.

    Two European Ladies Tour events will be held in the space of one week, commencing with the Saudi Ladies International on November 12-15, followed by the Saudi Ladies Team International which runs from November 17-19.

    Some of the world’s most prolific female golfers will compete for the $1m (Dhs3.6m) prize fund in the singles tournament and $500,000 (Dhs1.8m) in the team event.

    As a trailblazer for the region, Haddioui, who qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016, is thrilled to see Saudi Arabia invest in women’s golf in recent times.

    Golf Saudi’s innovative ‘Ladies First Club’ will offer a complimentary membership inclusive of golf lessons, driving range access and full rounds on three different courses, depending on their location.

    “I hope playing in Saudi will engage more women into playing, realising that they can share a game of golf together. It’s healthy, not something that is hard if you have not done a lot of sport before. It’s reachable. Golf has brought me so much and to promote it in a region where there is not a lot of it is amazing,” she said.

    “Any way of making it easier to get women out playing golf has my backing — and the scheme that Golf Saudi have created with the Ladies First Club is a fantastic idea. From my experience, there is no better way of opening the sport up to new golfers than making it fun, inclusive and social. This initiative is each of those things.”