Since its inception in 1960, the attitude of the Pakistan Gold Federation (PGF) towards women’s golf vacillated between condescending courtesy and benign neglect. However, this underwent a dramatic change in 2016 when Gen Zaheer ul Islam, President PGF, helped take a major step forward by acceding to Dr Asma Afzal Shami’s passionate request for sanctioning an exclusive Ladies Golf Championship at the national level to be rotated annually between Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. This proved to be a game-changer from which there has been no looking back.
In 2017, Gen Hilal, the new President, took the strategic decision to establish the Committee For Development of Ladies’ Golf, with Dr Shami as its Chairperson and Ms Zeenat Ayesha and Mrs Humaira Khalid as its members. This has given the women a platform for developing Ladies’ Golf according to their own vision and requirements. Significantly, they have used this for getting the Federal, Sindh, Punjab and KP Golf Associations to also sanction similar events in their respective domains. Thus, with five annual major ladies’ golf tournaments, it seems that women’s participation in the sport skyrocketed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Today there are 224 Lady Golfers whose enthusiasm knows no bounds. It is now quite the norm for them to band together and travel to other cities to participate in major golf tournaments.
Another significant achievement has been the creation of a mechanism for talent-hunting by holding regular golf matches for girls under fourteen, with the aim of discovering our future golf champions. Initially, this gave rise to another problem – how to convince parents to allow their young daughters to take up golf, especially when tennis and swimming offered cheaper alternatives. This was overcome by the joint efforts of Dr Shami and Mrs Iffat Zahra, who concentrated on alluring mothers onto the golf course in the hope that, “Once they had been bitten by the golfing bug, they would readily induct their daughters as well.” And that is exactly what happened. In the two Junior Girls Golf Tournaments held so far, the majority of the participants were daughters of golfing mothers. It must be mentioned here that Begum Rehana Sarwar, wife of the Governor of Punjab, has unofficially ‘adopted’ this initiative and has graced both these touraments as the Chief Guest. In addtion, a Junior Girls Match is now included in every Ladies’ Golf Championship.
However, their crowning achievement has been the highly successful conduct of the 1st PGF International Ladies’ Amateur Golf Championship, held at Lahore last year. Given the fact that at that time, just like today, foreign countries were hesitent to send even a men’s sports team to Pakistan, Dr Shami, charged with the passion to project a softer image of Pakistan, reached out to her counterparts abroad and persuaded seven regional countries to participate in this historic event. This was a truly astounding achievement. However, in her own words, “This was really not about playing golf. It was about reaching out, connecting, and building bridges – and 7 bridges were indeed built.” Another unique feature of this event was the fact that it was conceived, planned and executed almost entirely by women, with the only male official being the Chief Referee. This was praised by all the visitors and was best articulated by Ms Rabea Htul, Head of Malaysian Women’s Golf, who stated, “Our stereotyped impression of Pakistani women has undergone a sea change. They are women at their best, they are women on the go!”
As the Coronavirus pandemic prevented the holding of the 2nd International Championship this year, the Ladies’ Committee decided to refurbish its newfound relevance in the regional golfing fraternity by participating in Women’s Golf Day
This mega event, the like of which had never been seen before in Pakistan, was aptly described by HE Begum Samina Alvi, who stated, “This has firmly placed Pakistan on the regional Map of Ladies’ Golf.” It may be mentioned here that last month Dr Shami’s efforts in this regard were duly recognised by a special award conferred by the Governor of Punjab for “bringing honour to Pakistan.”
As the Coronavirus pandemic prevented the holding of the 2nd International Championship this year, the Ladies’ Committee decided to refurbish its newfound relevance in the regional golfing fraternity by participating in Women’s Golf Day. This is an international event that is commemorated by each country, separately, according to its own environment. As this was Pakistan’s first entry into this event, it was decided to hold it in a really unique manner that would be noticed by our counterparts abroad. Hence, instead of holding it in one city, the match was conducted simultaneously at Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore on the 2nd of October 2021, in which over a hundred lady golfers participated with great enthusiasm. Its purpose was more than achieved, as accolades were receieved from the heads of ladies’ golf in 18 regional countries.
A truly unique event – bordering on the unbelievable – took place two weeks ago, when Dr Shami took 50 lady golfers from all over Pakistan to Quetta, to participate in the first ever Balochistan Ladies Golf Championship held at the Quetta Golf Club on 25-26 September 2021. In the words of Gen Hilal, President PGF, “Taking ladies’ golf to Balochistan, that too in such numbers, has left most of us in awe.”
In keeping with the best norms of successful leadership, Dr Shami formed a ‘Core Team’ of very competent lady golfers for carrying out the meticulous planning and flawless execution required for the success of this rather unique event. Working under the overall supervision of Mamoona Azam, Rahina Ehtisham (Lahore), Zeenat Ayesha (Islamabad) and Fawzia Naqvi (Karachi), this Core Team successfully overcame the multifarious challenges involved in synchronising the movement of 50 lady golfers flying in from Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, as well as in arranging their reception, transportation, board and lodging, and final departure from Quetta. In addition, there was a need for coordinating the necessary security aspects with the concerned authorities. Mrs Mahzareen Gul, a resident of Quetta, was designated as the Official Hostess and went out of her way to facilitate the working of this team. The real high point of this trip was the induction of 14 young sportswomen of Baluchistan into the fraternity of Ladies’ Golf.
However, to quote Dr Shami, “Our prime motivating factor for organising this event was not merely to play golf. In fact, our aim was to contribute towards the national integration in our beloved Pakistan and also help in projecting the soft image of our equally beloved Balochistan.”
Finally, a word on the future. The ardent desire of the senior leadership of Ladies’ Golf can be summed up in just four words:
“Next destination: Paris Olympics!”