Maha leads Arab challenge

DUBAI - Recently-turned professional Maha Haddioui will showcase her burgeoning talent to the world when she lines up for honours at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, held under the patronage of Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the Emirates Golf Club from December 14 to 17.

The 22-year-old Moroccan, who will be making her second appearance in the Ladies European Tour event on a sponsor’s invitation, sounded confident of seizing the opportunity with a strong finish which, she said, will put Arab women’s golf on the sporting map.

The new role model for aspiring female golfers in Morocco, Haddioui may have missed the cut last year, but returned home richer in experience and high on confidence.

“Now I know what it takes to compete at this highest level of golf. I am upbeat and focused,” she said ahead of the €500,000 (Dh2.5 million) event.

“I am grateful to ‘golf in DUBAi’ for the invitation and will do my best to come up with a good result. The field is studded with very big names likes Michelle Wie and Laura Davies, but I have faith in my ability,” said the Agadir-born prodigy who performed creditably in the Lalla Meryem Cup, finishing 25th on six over 294, just eight shots off winner Zuzana Kamasova of Slovakia.

Before turning professional early 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 last year.

“The time (four years) spent at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, has really helped hone my skills and talents,” she said, adding: “My dream has always been to play on a tour and I am quite hopeful of securing full card for LET next season.

“I have given myself two years to break onto the circuit before tackling the US,” said Haddioui, who took to the fairways when she was 13, but quickly gained proficiency in the game. “I’m really happy I turned pro and everybody has been very helpful as well.”

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