Morocco’s trailblazing golfer Maha Haddioui received a late call up to the Ricoh Women’s British Open on Thursday afternoon, after Germany’s Isabel Gabsa withdrew due to a back injury in Game 47.
It’s the latest round of fantastic news for Maha, who qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games little more than a week ago. The first Arab professional golfer to play on Tour, Maha has emerged as role model for aspiring female golfers not only Morocco, but in the entire region. 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 playing in world class events like the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Omega Dubai Ladies Masters will 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.
“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 golds and one silver medal.
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 mind-set, she said: “I have a set routine 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.”