Now in its seventh year, “Troon Women’s Golf Month” will be celebrated throughout the month of October at Troon facilities around the world. (Normally celebrated in June, COVID concerns caused a delay in 2020.) Following our September issue article that looked at “Ladies on the Rise” at Troon facilities in the U.S., here is an international perspective on the role women are playing in the golf industry, focused on four women making a powerful impact at Troon-affiliated properties in Egypt, United Arab Emirates, England, and Saudi Arabia.
NAELA EL ATTAR
Naela El Attar, PGA Head of Allegria Academy at The Allegria, Cairo, Egypt, is used to breaking down barriers. Introduced to golf as a 5-year-old, she would go on become the first person from Egypt to compete professionally on various tours. Then, in 2017, she became the first person ever from the Middle East to become a PGA of America professional.
“As a woman I had to prove that through passion and commitment, I can serve the industry as good as any man in a male-dominated industry,” said El Attar, who began her teaching career in Northern California. “I worked long hours, carrying heavy bags, tolerating bad weather conditions, and teaching up to 10 lessons a day, six days a week.”
Never taking no for an answer or feeling intimidated have been the keys to her success.
“Always work with passion and have the courage to venture to what needs to be done, gaining knowledge and experience that will help in achieving your career goals,” she said. “It is also essential to not think that you would be limited in a male-dominated industry.”
After returning to her native Egypt in 2014, El Attar was promoted to head of Allegria Academy in 2019. Her efforts have made it the most successful golf academy in the country. “I was willing to go against many odds to make sure I ended up growing the game and keep reaching my career goals,” she said.
Cassidy Smith is working a long way from home and loving every minute of it. A 2017 graduate of Florida State University, Smith is currently cluster membership and leisure manager at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and Yas Links Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
“Working abroad is an incredible opportunity that I would highly recommend to anyone,” she said. “It has been very interesting learning about the Arabic customs and practices, which has taught me a great deal about how both men and women are respected in different cultures. I feel privileged being a woman in this country as there are specific areas reserved just for ladies. For example, you can find “women only” zones in public transportation or in government buildings, and there are gyms and taxis that are exclusively for ladies.”
Smith, who previously worked at Troon facilities in Massachusetts and Australia, advises women interested in a career in golf to be open to all opportunities and to never stop networking because you never know where that can take you. “It’s also important to never let the fact that you may the only woman in the room intimidate or discourage you. As long as you are working hard and doing your homework, you will have a valuable outlook and unique approach that will make you an asset to the team.”
Being in a male-dominated profession has never concerned Anna Darnell or hindered her advancement into senior management. Need proof? In 2011, she became director of golf at The Grove just outside of London at the age of 29, becoming the youngest female in the United Kingdom with that title. “In fact, being a woman helps you stand out from the crowd, and over the years golf clubs have accepted it’s not about your gender but your experience in the golf business that sets you apart from the rest,” she said.
Darnell believes the perception of women in the golf industry has shifted massively over the years. “For females looking to take up the game and are interested in a career in golf, I would say the same as I would to anyone, try to gain as much experience as you can in all different roles,” she said. “There are so many diverse opportunities within our industry and that sets you up to be able to achieve anything.”
That’s certainly been the case at The Grove, where she is now director of golf and leisure. “We have a young team here and have become recognized in the UK for developing business talent of the future (including two female assistant PGA golf professionals at the moment on a teaching team of five), and that is personally very important to me.”
Yusra Bahamdein didn’t even know there was a golf club in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, until Royal Greens Golf & Country Club approached her to fill the position of marketing manager last year.
Although she had another job offer pending from a multinational company, the choice wasn’t hard. “I like challenges, and I wanted to join a place where I can make a difference in our society and contribute to the change happening in the Kingdom,” she said. “Royal Greens was my opportunity to make this difference and help grow the golf industry.” Although she had no golf experience, Bahamdein quickly started understanding the game, the facility, and the value of going the extra mile. “Every door opens another door by working hard, getting out of your comfort zone, and learning something out of your scope,” she said. “I love what I do and I enjoy going to work every day, raising awareness about our clubhouse and growing the passion for golf, while creating a new lifestyle.”
Today, Royal Greens is breaking boundaries in the Saudi Arabia sports world and making history in the region. “I am proud to be part of this ongoing journey and I see a bright future for any female being part of the golf industry,” said Bahamdein.