Promoters and organisers of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters have hailed Morocco’s trailblazing golfer Maha Haddioui, who has qualified for the Rio Olympics, calling it a ground-breaking achievement for women’s golf in the Arab world.
“Being the only Arab in the 60-player field, Maha’s qualification for the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza will leave a lasting legacy for the future generations, but her winning a medal there could well change the way the game is played in the region,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi.
“Maha has emerged as role model for aspiring female golfers not only Morocco, but in the entire region.
“Morocco is leading the way when it comes to professional golf in the Arab world, and it’s definitely important for people from other countries to see how their golfers are shaping up.
“The rising standard of the game in the country is certainly a tribute to years of investment in golf from the Royal family,” he said, adding: “Maha is optimistic and so is the Arab world.”
The Moroccan ace will carry the hopes and expectations of the entire Arab world when she tees up at next month’s Summer Olympics where the game is making its long-awaited return after 112 years.
“My ultimate goal is to be the top player in the world, but playing the Olympics and getting a medal is the ultimate dream,” said Haddioui, who believes the experience of regularly playing in world-class events like the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters and the Lalla Meryem Cup would come in handy on the Olympic golf course.
“I know it is going to be incredibly challenging to win a medal, but I’m going to give it my all. I am upbeat and focused as I am quite used to the high pressure that comes with playing in big tournaments,” said Moroccan ace, who is also the only Arab woman to earn full playing status on the Ladies European Tour.
“But, it would be absolutely amazing representing Morocco and being part of the African contingent at the Olympic Games. I am looking forwards to the honour,” she added.
“We have had some great Moroccan athletes who have made the country proud, and my dream is to follow in their footsteps,” said the 27-year-old from Agadir.
With 22 medals — 18 in athletics and three in boxing — Morocco enjoys a strong a strong pedigree of world-class athletes led by Hicham El Guerrouj, who boasts two gold and one silver medals.
Saïd Aouita, with one gold and one silver, is the other multiple medal winner while Nawal El Moutawakel created history at the 1984 Los Angeles, becoming the first Arab woman to win a gold medal, a feat she achieved in 400-metre hurdles.
“It’s a little girl’s dream, even if you are 27, you still have a dream to win a medal. It’s something really strong in my heart. If that happens if will sort of inspire other women in the Arab world to take up golf,” said the US-educated professional, who is supported by Trophée Hassan II Association (ATH).
Haddioui spent four years at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, to fine tune her talents before turning professional in 2011. She was a four-time All American scholar and NCGA First-team All American, graduating with a Masters in Accounting and International Business.
Keeping a quiet mind is her mantra for what she called an important week for her. “As soon as I am set up on the ball, nothing else matters. Once I have made my decision, I just go for it. That’s it, I don’t think about anything.”
Elaborating on her positive mindset, she said: “I have a set routine with my that involves a lot of thinking of a happy place, a happy smell and a happy sound. It’s like a trigger before I play every golf shot.
“It has worked for me in practice rounds and, hopefully, it will work during the competition as well. Let’s see.”