Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

“I think the tournament opens many doors for women”: Camilla Lennarth on the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open

Posted on 27 November 2017 by Ben Morse

Women’s sport is the place to be.

The 2017 Women’s Football World Cup attracted record crowds.  So did the 2017 Women’s Ashes series across all formats, with many people seeing it as a turning point in women’s cricket.

Women’s golf is no exception either. Attendances at events are up and the prize funds have risen year by year at both the British Open and the Evian Championship..

Not only are the incentives for professional women golfers increasing, but leading organisations are also making a huge push to promote golf to the fairer sex.

Whereas it may seem obvious to promote golf in countries where the sport is already established, golf’s governing bodies have made a strong push to encourage women to play golf in countries where the sport is currently seen as an unfashionable.

A pivotal tournament in this endeavour has been the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open held earlier this month at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates;  being named after, and under the patronage of, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, the “The Mother of the UAE”, highlights the importance of the event to women in the region.

This year the FBM Ladies Open, which was won by 19 year old Aditi Ashok from Bengaluru in India, was held on a course designed by the nine time major winner Gary Player.

After the success of the inaugural 2016 competition, which was won by Ladies European Tour Order of Merit winner Beth Allen from the US, the organisers were confident enough to state that: “It succeeded in inspiring UAE women of all ages to take up golf.”

As a result, promotion of the 2017 tournament was stepped up, in an effort to encourage local girls to start playing golf.

A new hashtag, “WomenOnCourse”, was introduced and the organisers created a scheme to allow female golf stats to portray the values learned from playing golf, to the local Emirati women.

Some of these lessons ranged from tenacity to the importance of family, with a strong emphasis being placed upon personality development from playing the sport.

I spoke to Camilla Lennarth, a winner on the Ladies European Tour as recently as 2014 and a participant in this year’s FBM Ladies Open, and she stressed the positive effect golf can have on one’s personality.

She said: “A very important thing I’ve learned through golf is that there’s so much more to golf then just hitting a white ball.

“Playing golf gives one an opportunity to make new friends, travel the world to play different courses, exercise and best of all, it makes people laugh through good times and bad times.”

A female golf tournament in Abu Dhabi has been a long time coming in many people’s eyes. The climate and facilities in the UAE make it a golfing paradise for many players and it is a preferred training location for many women on the LET.

And Lennarth believes that a tournament such as the FBM Ladies Open will play a key role in growing the game in the UAE.

She said: “I think it’s key to have a women’s tournament to raise awareness and help develop women’s golf in the Emirates.  To grow the game is very important to give girls the opportunity to meet someone they can look up to within the game of golf. So by having a tournament (here) it’s give girls a chance to do that.”

Aside from competing in the tournament earlier this month, some players also ran a clinic for local Emirati women to introducing them to golf and give them an opportunity to ask questions directly to the professionals.

Lennarth said: “I think the tournament opens many doors for women to believe that they can become however good they want to be in golf. And that can one day create a female Emirates winner.

“Ever since I’ve come to the Emirates to practice golf and play tournaments I think it’s always been a very positive attitude towards women playing golf.”

As a starting point, the LET has done a good job in organising tournaments such the FBM Ladies Open, in countries where golf isn’t yet a major sport, in a bid to encourage young girls to take up the sport.

In a world where the sporting landscape is often dominated is by the male game, it is vital that there is a drive from  major organisations to promote golf in different countries to make the game more marketable, and hopefully bring more equality to the game.

The reaction to the FBM Ladies Open has been encouraging and one can only hope that this is the start of a continued push to get more young women playing golf.

Featured Photo Credit © Saadiyat Beach Gold Club