Introducing three of the world’s best golfers heading for Saudi, who have overcome cancer, deafness and even balancing school lessons with professional golf to achieve greatness
8 March 2020: International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The debut Aramco Saudi Ladies International will do just that when it unites more than 100 such women in the Kingdom this month for KSA’s first ever hosting of an all-female professional golf competition.
The four-day tournament is the latest event aimed at inspiring the next generation of Arab girls to set out in pursuit of their grandest dreams, no matter the obstacle, and takes women’s golf to a whole new frontier.
And with International Women’s Day today (SUNDAY MARCH 8TH) marking exactly two weeks until the tournament’s first ever champion will be crowned, now seems the perfect time to introduce a trio of the awe-worthy women heading to compete at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), March 19th-22nd.
They’ve fought and overcome the most immense challenges and still made it to the top of their game.
Here, in their own words, they describe their drive to make it to the top, even in the face of adversity.
Almost exactly a year ago to the day, Scottish golfer Heather MacRae’s world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Since then, she has gone on to win the Women's PGA Professional Championship – held just two weeks before her surgery – in turn topping the points table to earn her place on the Great Britain and Ireland team for the inaugural Women's PGA Cup.
“You don’t ever think this kind of thing will happen to you and it’s not something you can prepare for or know how you will react. It still amazes me how I dealt with the diagnosis as it was in a week where I was hosting a couple of golf days for International Women’s Day – maybe it was because I was so focused on those being a success that it didn’t properly sink in for a while.
“The girls coaching I do was a great distraction for me because you just want them to see a happy, positive role model and it helped me in keeping my head up. After the initial diagnosis, I would always be looking to see what tournament I could play so that I always had a goal or something to aim for, something to give me a purpose. I would practice whatever I was able to practice; sometimes it was only putting, sometimes mental skills, sometimes only dreaming about playing tournaments again.
“I had my latest check-up just yesterday, one year on from the diagnosis. It was a good result, I am happy. To think where I was this time last year and now I am going to be playing the Aramco Saudi Ladies International – the biggest event on the LET outside the majors this year – is quite amazing. I have been working so hard on my golf and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes, but I am just excited to be back playing on the LET this year knowing I will enjoy every minute of it.
“Everyone faces struggles and difficult times – you can’t compare yours to anyone else’s because to you, it’s yours that affect you the most. You can always try to help yourself, always try and do things just a little better each day. Set goals, big goals, then just try and chip away at them piece by piece. Some days are better than others, you will achieve more, but if you can make a tiny bit of progress even on the bad days, you can get there. Don’t ever give up.”
Diksha Dagar became the youngest Indian woman to win on the distinguished Ladies European Tour (LET) when she claimed victory in last year’s South African Women’s Open aged only 18. A phenomenal achievement in itself – made all the more incredible with Diksha being born deaf.
“I am fortunate, happy and proud to be where I am today, thanks to my family and the people around me for giving me opportunities, guidance, encouragement and trust. To begin with, I did not feel that I lacked anything, until I understood others can hear. I took things in my stride, not thinking too much about it and moved ahead with an attitude to do the best I can.
“To my friends and any girls facing challenges and difficulties, I suggest accepting the situation, and knowing that whatever it is, it’s just a fraction in the big life we have. We need to move and make the opportunities on offer count. There is always opportunity in adversity, so use it.
“I feel good when I see lots of people from the deaf community come out and support me and feel affiliated. That special expression on their faces reflects joy, a sense of accomplishment, equality and acceptance. It’s a shared joy and happiness.
“Golf has added excitement and joy to my life, and my goal looking forward is to be the best amongst the best and enjoy the journey and golfing.”
Aged just 18-years-old, Julia Engström of Sweden last week won her maiden LET golf title with a sensational victory in Australia. This is her third year as a professional, but the whole time she’s been climbing the rankings and making a name for herself on Tour, she’s also been studying to complete her education.
“Since turning pro I have balanced school and golf and have managed to bring my computer and books with me wherever I’ve had to travel. During my travel time I use the time to study and stay on track. Sometimes it’s a bit challenging, but my school understand my schedule and everyone in my class are athletes too, which is helpful.
“My advice to women and girls in pursuing their ambitions is to just keep on going and try to vision your goals. Make sure you have fun because if you enjoy what you are doing the results will come. Surround yourself with a team that can guide you through ups and downs together.
“I am happy to keep on working towards my goals and see where they take me. Being able to inspire other girls to pursue their dreams is very exciting. I want to challenge myself and improve every area. I also love the game of golf and really enjoy the places around the world this game takes me.”
The Aramco Saudi Ladies International will welcome many of the biggest names in golf when it begins on 19th March, including England’s two-time LET Order of Merit winner Georgia Hall, last weekend’s NSW Open champion Julia Engstrom, 12-time LET tournament winner Lee-Anne Pace of South Africa, and a host of Solheim Cup and international players.