Maha Haddioui is the new role model for aspiring female golfers in Morocco. The 22-year-old from Agadir is the best professional player in the country, as demonstrated by her performance at the Lalla Meryem Cup.
Neither of the two Moroccan professionals in the men’s Trophée Hassan II made the weekend but Maha passed with flying colours, lying in a tie for 10th at the halfway mark and eventually tying for 25th.
She believes that her four years spent at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, helped her to hone her skills and talents. 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.
“When I was in America I went to Lynn University in Boca Raton in Florida, it was the same as here really: the weather is amazing and golf courses are amazing. It was a really good experience because I got to spend time with people from different places. People on my team came from seven different continents so it was really enriching,” she said.
“Being able to play lots of tournaments, I played number one for my team which was a big responsibility and taught me a lot of things. Coming back here after four years in America and playing golf every day is just perfect.”
Maha is one of only three Moroccan female professional golfers and the only one with ambitions to make it on the international circuit. Mounia Amalou and Lalla Soumiya are the only other two professionals, but both have other commitments. Amalou has tendonitis in her elbow and Lalla Soumiya is the General Manager for the Lalla Meryem Cup and the Trophée Hassan II.
At the Lalla Meryem Cup, Maha has a definite advantage as she is playing on her home course at Golf du Soleil and lives only 300 metres from the club.
She explained how she started golf: “We went there on Sunday for lunch with my parents. We went on the course with my sister and we didn’t know what was going on. The caddie master got annoyed and sent us to the range, he said be useful and hit balls and that’s how we got started. The person that taught me everything was Jean-Marie Kazmierczak who is still helping me sometimes.
“At first I improved really fast because I was going to golf for 10 hours a day. I was there at 6am and when it was dark I would go. I improved very fast tat the beginning and as we get better it gets harder. I wanted to continue alongside my baccalaureate without giving up on my studies. America was the perfect thing for me so that’s why I went there.
“I guess it’s pretty unusual but I’m really happy I turned pro. I’m really happy I’m playing golf now and everybody has been very helpful as well.”
She thanked her parents for allowing her to pursue her ambitions. “It was really tough with high school. I used to have class from 8am to 6pm so it was good of them to let me pursue my passion and allow me to play tournaments when I was supposed to be at school. It made me responsible and I was still good at school so I owe them so much.”
Competing in her home town is a dream and golf looks set to become more popular in Agadir as a consequence of the men’s and women’s professional events being staged simultaneously.
“It’s amazing because people get to watch ladies and men’s tournaments. The fact that it’s at the king’s course is unbelievable because it’s always closed. Getting to play and people to see the course is just amazing,” she said.
“First of all a lot of people didn’t know what was happening and I explained it was a LET tournament and everyone things it’s amazing its happening here. Since the Hassan Open there’s been no professional tournament here. It’s very good because people are getting to know more about Agadir in a golf way and the people of Agadir are getting to know about golf, signs everywhere, courtesy cars everywhere.”
Maha is fortunate to have the financial backing of the Association Hassan II (ATH) and as such she is able to travel the world competing. She has already played on the Spanish Banesto Tour and at the Terre Blanche Ladies Open on the LET Access Series, with is the second division European circuit. In addition to the Lalla Meryem Cup, she has also received three invitations to play on the Ladies European Tour this year, at the Portugal Ladies’ Open, UniCredit Ladies German Open presented by Audi and Slovak Ladies Open.
She hopes to secure her full card for the Ladies European Tour next season and has given herself two years to break onto the circuit before tackling the USA.