Michael Vlismas –
SOUTHBROOM, KwaZulu-Natal (18 April 2013) – Having witnessed the recent social changes in the Arab world, Moroccan Maha Haddioui is perfectly placed to represent not only a new generation of women professional golfers, but also a new generation of Arab women.
Haddioui tees it up in this week’s South African Women’s Open as the first Arab woman to earn full playing privileges on the Ladies European Tour (LET). That in itself is a major cultural breakthrough for her. But she’s determined to take this a step further.
“The Arab world has been getting a lot of exposure lately, and unfortunately not all of it has been good. So I take it really seriously to show another side of the Arab world, and of Arab women – that we’re very engaged and open-minded, especially in Morocco. That’s a big responsibility,” she said on the eve of the first round of this WPGA and LET co-sanctioned tournament at Southbroom Golf Club.
“The new generation in Morocco is very open-minded. They travel the world and know what’s going on. Even the older generation is getting affected by that, in a good way. It’s a good change and really a good hope for the future of the Arab countries. It’s still tough being a woman in the Arab world, but Morocco is quite different that way. We’re pretty equal and I don’t feel at all inferior to a man in my country. I play with them and I practice with them. It’s all good.”
Haddioui is certainly not your typical Arab woman. She attended college in the United States and claimed a host of golf honours there. And she considers herself fortunate to have grown up in a liberal household.
“I’m really grateful for that. Not a lot of women in the Arab world are able to travel the world on their own and play golf and follow their passion. I’m really fortunate in that way. Even though my parents are not golfers, they’ve always supported me. That’s a big plus.”
But it doesn’t mean the pressure is any less on her to contend, which she hopes to start doing this week in what is her second tournament on the LET.
“My first one was in my home country of Morocco last month, so that was a lot of pressure. I finished tied 44th. But having my second tournament still in Africa is just great. I’m really excited about my season.”
Haddioui will be up against a strong field in Southbroom, with this 54-hole tournament including players from 27 countries and featuring the likes of LET Order of Merit winners Lee-Anne Pace from South Africa and France’s Gwladys Nocera, as well as veteran international winners such as Wales’ Becky Brewerton and England’s Trish Johnson.