Saudi women’s golf group gets women on golf course for first time

The Saudi Ladies Professional Golf Association has introduced female-only rounds with two of the biggest names in women’s golf on the horizon.

Joyce Lee and Minjee Lee, both 18, were invited to participate in a four-person scramble tournament at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Sports City on Monday.

They are part of a flurry of events that Saudi Arabia is attempting to do as part of a Vision 2030 plan, a set of reforms implemented in Saudi Arabia in hopes of addressing the royal family’s reluctance to join the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia is also seeking to diversify its economy away from oil.

The developments come as the U.S. has been pushing Saudi Arabia to change its rules on driving that prohibits women from getting behind the wheel of a car. The late King Abdullah announced in September that the kingdom would allow women to drive in June.

The Saudi campaign took on new life this past week, when International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde spoke at a seminar in the Saudi capital on Friday and applauded the reforms being undertaken by the Saudi royal family.

After Lagarde’s remarks, there was an outpouring of cheers and chants of “Mariamh” and “Lagarde, Lagarde.” The chant – meaning “We are Mariamh” – is a reference to Mariam Al-Halebi, a woman who will be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

“The improvement of the status of women in this country is really one of the successes of the NCP program,” Lagarde said, referring to the National Transformation Program by which the Saudi government aims to boost economic growth, enhance competitiveness and foster opportunities for the private sector to accelerate economic diversification.

The developments come as Asian golfer Minjee Lee is looking to compete at the Saudi Ladies Professional Golf Association’s first-ever event. Minjee Lee is coming off her first career LPGA win in early July, a two-stroke victory in the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan.

Joyce Lee is seen as a rising star in women’s golf. She has made the cut in all 10 professional events she’s played, including the recent Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale where she tied for 34th. Joyce Lee made her debut in the Meijer LPGA Classic in 2010.

Like Minjee Lee, Joyce Lee is also participating in the King Abdullah Ladies Professional Golf Championship.

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