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Local heroine Maha Haddioui carries home hopes at Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco
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Haddioui: first full-time Arab golfer on Tour

Ladies European Tour rookie Maha Haddioui says that she feels well prepared to carry the home nation’s hopes at the Lalla Meryem Cup at Golf de l’Océan in Morocco this week.

In the last three editions of the tournament, the 24-year-old from Agadir’s best performance was a tie for 25th at Golf du Soleil in 2010, but she comes into this season full of confidence having finished in a share of 20th at Tour School in Marrakech in December.

This year, U.S. college-educated Haddioui is the first Moroccan player to have full access to play on the Ladies European Tour.

She turned professional in 2010 and played in a handful of professional tournaments with sponsors’ invitations, but now believes that she is ready to launch her career as the first full-time Arab golfer on Tour, in her home city this week.

Haddioui said: “Obviously I’m really happy to be playing in my own country even though it’s a lot of pressure. I have been working on that and I know the course really well. It’s been warm at home so I’m lucky because I’ve been able to practice a lot. My goal is to be in the top five and I know the course really well - and the greens.”

Haddioui missed the cut in the tournament played at the same venue in Agadir last year, but feels that one more year’s experience playing at the highest level will improve her chances of success, which would help to inspire others to take up the game in Morocco.

“Golf is not a big sport in Morocco but now more people know about it and if I win the Lalla Meryem Cup, or qualify for the Olympics, they will definitely know me!” Haddioui said.

“My ultimate goal would be to be the top player in the world but playing the Olympics and getting a medal would be the ultimate dream.”

Although there are a few male golfers from Morocco playing on the second-tier EPD and Alps Tours, such as professionals Faycal Serghini and Reda Rhazali, as well as promising amateur Moustapha Lamouass, Haddioui is by far the best golfer from her country and she hopes that there will be more professionals joining her on tour in future.

“Maybe in four or five years there will be more pros. The good amateurs are still too young. In a few years I hope there will be more on tour because that will be a great thing to share,” she said. “One of my biggest dreams would be to play with my sister as a pro. She has three more years (at U.S. College) and we’ll see how it goes for her.”

Maha at Lalla Aicha Tour School in December

Maha’s younger sister, Nezha, 19, a 5 handicap golfer, is following in her footsteps by studying at Lynn University in Florida. Haddioui believes that they have been incredibly lucky to be supported by such a liberal family and country.

“My parents don’t play golf but we lived next to a golf course so that was the main reason I kept playing,” she said. “I finished studying two years ago in America and when I made the decision to turn pro, they supported me. They are doing the same for my sister who is now studying in America.

“They put a lot of trust in me. Not a lot of families in the Arab world would do that and I have a great chance. I’m so blessed that I come from a country that is so open minded; I can travel on my own. If I was from another place I maybe wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Haddioui has the full support of the Association Trophée Hassan II (ATH), organisers of the Lalla Meryem Cup and Trophée Hassan II on the PGA European Tour, both taking place in Agadir this week, as well as her friends and family, who will come to support her at Golf de l’Océan.

Given that she is the home hope, Maha will carry the expectations of the nation on her shoulders as she sets out in her rookie season, but despite the added pressure, she believes that playing in front of crowds can only help her in the long term.

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