Maha Haddioui will carry her nation’s hopes when she tees off at the Cell C South African Women’s Open at San Lameer Country Club from 16 to 19 October.
The 25-year-old is stylish on the course and a trailblazer in a region of the world where women are oppressed and restricted from expressing their talent or exercising their freedom.
Born in Morocco, Haddioui is the only Arab and Moroccan woman to become a professional golfer and has been making significant progress since turning pro in 2010 to achieving her ultimate dream…qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Educated in the United States, Maha says she feels blessed everyday not just because she is able to pursue her dream in professional women’s golf but also because her parents gave her the support and encouragement to do so.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have such liberal and supportive parents who gave me the opportunities and support I needed to become a professional golfer. Neither of my parents plays golf but we lived next to a golf course when I was growing up which meant I could play whenever I wanted to.”
Golf is a non-mainstream sport in Morocco but thanks to Maha’s participation and success on the Ladies European Tour (LET), she has raised awareness and increased interest among younger players.
“Women’s golf is growing in Morocco and there is an attempt to market ourselves as a golf destination in the region which has therefore seen the birth of several golf courses in recent years from 20 in 2010 to about 45 come 2015.
“We also have more academies now, which has seen a greater interest in the sport especially from younger girls. Currently we have three amateurs with great potential including my sister and a few Arab champions and the Trophy Hassan II and Lalla Meryem Cup also helps to promote the sport in our country.”
She added: “I would love to see more Moroccans participating in golf and become professionals and for more women to join me on the LET.”
The Moroccan heroine has been a good influence on her younger sister Nezha who is also studying at Lynn University in Florida and is working on qualifying for the Tour.
Maha is impressed with the state of golf in South Africa.
“I could confidently say that golf in South Africa is the most developed on the continent and it is something that the rest of us look up to and aspire to.
“I know a few of the South African ladies on the LET and one of my favourites is Lee-Anne Pace. I love her rhythm and the way she plays on the courses.”
Excited about returning to South African shores, Maha says she enjoys competing in South Africa’s oldest women’s professional tournament.
“I love the fact that South Africa invests so much in women’s golf and that this tournament provides such a good platform for local and international golfers.”
Like many of her international counterparts, the Moroccan star will have to quickly acclimatise when she touches down in KwaZulu-Natal.
“My first big challenge will be recovering from the long flight to South Africa but with all the travelling I have been doing, I don’t think it will be too much of an issue.”
This year’s tournament, with a prize fund of R4.5-million (€320 000), takes place at the San Lameer Country Club, a course Maha has not played at before.
“I’m really looking forward to discovering this course. This will be one of the last tournaments of the year and it has a good prize fund so it’s definitely a good opportunity to put in a good performance and gain some points in the rankings.
“My goal for the Cell C SA Women’s Open would be a top 10 finish! My game has been steadily improving on various levels and I’m just waiting for everything to come together.”
While excited about visiting San Lameer, Maha says she loved her experience at Southbroom last year.
“I absolutely adore the KZN South Coast more so because I was able to feast on oysters off the beach in the mornings.”
Improving her game and making her mark on the LET are top of mind for this skilled Arab beauty who ultimately dreams of representing her country and Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games.
“I am working extremely hard to qualify and represent my country in Brazil in 2016. It is going to be incredibly challenging to qualify but I’m going to give it my all.
“It would be absolutely amazing representing Morocco and being part of the African contingent at the next Olympic Games.”