A new generation of Saudi female golfers took centre stage at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) ahead of the world’s best professional women golfers opening round of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund.
The tournament’s PRO-AM field featured six local Saudi girls and women, who played alongside the world’s best female golfers and took their golf education to the next level.
Sixteen-year-old Lujain Khalil, who plays for the Saudi women’s national golf team and only took up the game three years ago after a chance encounter with the game on a trip with her Dad to play another sport, tennis, played alongside US LPGA star Lindsay Weaver and was quick to celebrate the opportunity, but also identify where she needs to improve.
“I loved it,” she said, after walking off the 18th hole. “My drivers were pretty neat today. I pulled two but the rest were really decent. I’d say putting [is where I need to improve]. I missed a lot of putts on these greens. I need to shorten the swing in my putting action.”
A point endorsed by Weaver, who praised her ball striking and swing but identified Lujain’s short game as ‘an area everyone can work on’.
Now a self-confessed ‘golf addict’, Lujain has decided she wants to have a career in the game and is undertaking a daily regime designed to set her on that course. She’s up early to do strength and conditioning, at the course by 9am to practise and then home schooling online from 3-7pm.
“I’m someone who’s very ambitious,” she says. “I want to set records for all the courses I play on. Be someone for people to look up to.”
Be the first ever professional female golfer from Saudi? “Hopefully,” she beams.
But there will be stiff competition, as was demonstrated by the other young Saudi female golfers on show.
Seventeen-year-old Yasmin Nassif was playing with the LET’s first ever Arab golfer, Moroccan Maha Haddioui.
“Whenever I’m playing a Pro-Am, honestly, it’s so much fun because you get to have really close interactions with the pros, and they’re always so helpful. It’s a great learning experience as an amateur,” explained Nassif.
“It’s so inspiring [playing with Maha]. It just gives me hope and makes me excited for the future. She’s someone to look up to.”
Commenting on the Ladies First Club, which was created by Golf Saudi in 2020 to encourage women and girls in the Kingdom to try the sport, Nassif said: “I feel like there is so much support from Golf Saudi and having the Ladies First Club was a great way to learn more about the game and really be in touch with the game of golf.”
Najwa Salab played with LET winner Annabel Dimmock from England, who clearly enjoyed the experience and seeing local women embracing the sport.
“I had so much fun playing with the girls,” said Dimmock. “I think it’s amazing, as obviously I coached her [Salab] two years ago [at the first Saudi event], so to see her on the course today and so much more improved… It’s really nice to see that. All the things that Aramco and Golf Saudi are doing are really helping.”
The celebration of both women’s golf and inspiring Saudi females will continue this week, with all women attending on the Friday of the tournament – Ladies Day – able to enjoy a free day of entertainment on and off the course, with free golf clinics, LET-professional led tuition, delicious food, gift-packs and the opportunity to meet and chat with some of the biggest stars in women’s golf and motivational Saudi females, including fitness influencer and YouTube star, ‘It’s Always Hana’.
Majed Al Sorour, Deputy Chairman and CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation said: “Women’s golf in Saudi Arabia is continuing to grow with interest and participation increasing steadily year on year. Using our flagship events, alongside our partners Aramco, we know we can really inspire and empower more women to experience the sport like never before as our journey to transform the sport in the Kingdom continues. Our Ladies Day is open for all and gives an opportunity to either pick up a club for the first time with friends or simply enjoy watching and meeting the world’s biggest stars in the sport in a stunning location.”
Introductory golf coaching schools will be run throughout the day on the course’s driving range, where the competing players themselves will warm-up before taking to the course. Running from 2pm, the sessions will provide beginners tips and guidance for any women and girls wishing to get into the sport or simply learn more about it.
That will be followed by lunch in the tournament’s fan zone, before chats and selfies with some of the world’s best female golfers and live golf.
The day will culminate with attendees being escorted to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club’s iconic 16th hole – dubbed as one of the most beautiful holes in golf by the world’s best men’s and women’s golfers – on a range of luxury 12-seater golf buggies, for photos and refreshments over sunset, before the hosting of a ‘Ladies First Fashion Show’ at the tournament’s Aramco Energy Zone following play finishing for the day.
Those who attend will also be eligible to sign-up for more information around becoming a member of the Ladies First Club: Golf Saudi’s free learning initiative for women and girls looking to take up the game. As members of the Ladies First Club, receive a year-round calendar of complimentary golf lessons, full 18-hole rounds and social activities.