The Saudi Ladies Professional Golf Club (SMPGC) hosted its first-ever women’s professional golf tournament last weekend, with Emily Pedersen playing for one of the four teams in the Saudi Arabian Ladies Professional Golf Club (SALPGC) Open. The Saudi Arabian Ladies Professional Golf Club (SALPGC) Open Championship was the first-ever female golf championship in the Kingdom. Pedersen, 22, played in her first professional tournament in the first and second rounds, but withdrew during the third round when the weather did not permit the team to complete its play.
Golf in Saudi Arabia has been the subject of much debate for over a year, following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s announcement on August 22, 2017, that all male citizens would be required to wear dress code-compliant “abaya” clothing, and that women would be allowed to drive cars beginning next June. The Saudi Women Golf Association was formed in March of this year, two months before the announcement, to promote women’s participation in Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning golf industry.
This was the first time any team managed to compete in a Saudi women’s professional tournament. Although it was a warm summer’s day, participants and supporters filled most of the four-star Royal club in Jeddah. There were two rounds, one on Friday, the second on Saturday.
The crown prince has estimated that golf is worth approximately $50 billion and has announced his intention to ramp up the number of courses in the country. Golf enthusiasts hope that infrastructure for professional-level courses and facilities will be in place in time for the 2022 World Cup, but there are concerns over funding and infrastructure. The International Olympic Committee is concerned that if women can’t participate in Saudi Arabia, the country will not host the World Cup in 2022. For its part, the Saudi government has stated that it will create the infrastructure for women to participate in sports if the sport is culturally acceptable, but with many women still forced to live in segregation, there are still barriers in the way of women playing a significant role in the Saudi women’s golf industry.
This program includes a 39-member Saudi Team for the Big Apple Pro-Am to be held on January 28, 2019. The team’s captain, Dr. Ali Al Yemari, is a Saudi architect. The team will be comprised of 28 men and five women. Once the country’s first professional golf tournament is complete, it will host a gala event in Riyadh on November 9, 2018, to raise funds for “women’s initiatives and develop young professionals and mothers to participate in the sport.”
Post-journalism is back in the news: Women write about a new vision of possibilities for their sport
Saudi prince concerned over restrictions on women before ‘driving’ ban lifts
Editorial: Endorsing Saudi Arabia’s royal family is a mistake