Foreign women golfers turn up for first tournament in Saudi Arabia

Written by by By Sarah Lee, CNN

Outwardly, Minjee Lee and her teammates from the Ladies European Tour are striking the right note in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia golfing federation launched the country’s first professional women’s team in the kingdom last Friday, on the eve of Ladies European Tour week. There was much fanfare around the championship, which took place in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah. But inside, the players chose to play down the importance of the victory.

Qatar’s Lala Tanis, Li Jie of China and Lee, who play for the Ladies European Tour, celebrate on the course during an international match during the Saudi Ladies International at Mina Golf Club, Jeddah. Credit: Top/AFP/Getty Images

In contrast to the emphasis on story-telling on stage and front of the stage, Lee herself pointed out the “second-best golf course I’ve ever played.”

“The most special thing about this week is going to be the Crown Prince’s meet-and-greet on Saturday,” Lee told reporters. She was referring to a scheduled audience with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. The gathering follows a year of political jousting between the Saudi royal family and activists who have criticized the country’s support for hardline Islamist ideology and perceived policies of sectarianism.

Public protests and demonstrations are banned in Saudi Arabia.

The King has asked Lee and her team to participate in official events on behalf of women in Saudi Arabia, though the “crown prince has not specifically said, ‘You’re welcome to come here for golf’,” she added.

Saudi Arabia’s first women players attending the inaugural competition at Mina Golf Club in Jeddah. Credit: Alia Al Hilali/AFP/Getty Images

More women golfers have since lined up to compete in the tournament.

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