Qatari woman trained by PGA to make golf more accessible in her country

By Steve Dorsey, The Palm Beach Post October 05, 2015

PALM BEACH GARDENS — Yasmian Al-Sharshani has witnessed first-hand the popularity of Tiger Woods. Her latest encounter with the world’s most recognizable professional golfer was last week while she was dining at Woods’ restaurant in Jupiter, but there were plenty of others on hand who also wanted to speak with Woods.

Although it’s the third time Al-Sharshani said she has briefly spoken with Woods, she said that Woods’ memory of who she is was a little fuzzy. If all goes as planned, that could change soon, however.

Al-Sharshani is the lone female member of the Qatar National Golf Team that plans to compete in the 2016 Rio Games, where golf will return to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years. Al-Sharshani’s goal is to represent her country and further blaze a trail for women and the game of golf in the Middle East.

In an effort to enhance her goal, Al-Sharshani’s latest stop on her journey has brought her to Palm Beach County as a participant in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, which is a central component of the broader Empowering Women and Girls through Sports Initiative.

This week she will complete a hectic and demanding threeweek mentoring regimen at PGA National under the tutelage of PGA of America Chief Financial Officer Rhona Aime and Program Operations Coordinator Angela Schmelzer. The aim of Aime and Schmelzer has been to provide Al-Sharshani with valuable skills, experience and access to marketing networks along with a strategic action plan for Al-Sharshani that can lead to future opportunities for underserved women and girls in Qatar, where Al-Sharshani is one of only three registered female golfers.

“She will take back (to Qatar) an actual plan to help grow the game of golf in her country,” Schmelzer said. “We’ll keep in touch with her and help her along the way. She’s really grasped everything. We’ve jam-packed her with a lot of information, but she’s loved every minute of it.”

It hasn’t been all work and no play for Al-Sharshani during her visit, however. She’s been allotted at least two hours each day to practice and play the courses at PGA National. Last Friday, she was treated to a visit and teaching session from former LPGA Tour pro Suzy Whaley, who last year was elected PGA Secretary, the first woman to serve as an officer of the association. Whaley said during a break in her session with Al-Sharshani that she’s impressed with the petite 29-yearold’s work ethic and eagerness to be an ambassador of the game in her home country.

“It’s been delightful to have her here and to understand what she’s trying to accomplish there (in Qatar),” said Whaley, whose home base is in Connecticut. “She told me she has a 17 handicap. Her goal is to be single digit, and I think she easily can get there … with a little more technical instruction. She’s determined to get there and she has really good basics.”

Al-Sharshani said she became fascinated with golf while watching others play during a family vacation in Egypt when she was 11, but only as a recreational hobby. At the time, she didn’t envision that 18 years later she would be involved in groundbreaking work to promote the sport in Qatar and perhaps make history by playing in the Olympics next year.

“I would love that. It would be something good for the Muslim women, for the world, for this sport,” Al-Sharshani said.

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