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Pedersen claims grand slam with dual honors in Saudi Ladies Team International

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KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: A British expatriate’s daughter has returned to Saudi Arabia to witness history in women’s golf week in the Kingdom.

Georgia Coughlin, from Blackpool, England, is one among a contingent of Ladies European Tour (LET) players out there on the fairways at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

“It’s amazing. I can’t believe the opportunities that Golf Saudi and Aramco have given us,” 25-year-old Coughlin said when she spoke to Arab News after the second round of the Saudi Ladies Team International on Wednesday.

The 54-hole tournament that ended on Thursday capped a week that began with the staging of the Kingdom’s first professional women’s golf tournament, the $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International, won by Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen in a playoff against Georgia Hall of England on Sunday.

Coughlin said she was a three-year-old toddler when she was brought to Riyadh by her father, Richard, who was working for BAE Systems.

“My mom and dad have been in Riyadh for 22 years now,” added Coughlin.

When she was about five years old she returned to England, and then came back to Riyadh when “I was 14 or 15 to do my exams at the British International School.”

Living in the Arizona Golf Compound near Riyadh with her parents, it was natural for Coughlin to be attracted to golf.

“My villa was on a nine-hole golf course in the Arizona compound. I just used to go out and play on my own. I became a member of Riyadh Golf Club (RGC) and Dirab Ladies Group. We had quite a few lady amateurs there and I used to play with them probably three or four times a week,” said Coughlin.

Coughlin became well known in the local golf community — beating opponents twice her age and winning tournaments at RGC and Dirab Golf & Country Club.

Getting more serious about her golf at 16, Coughlin began taking lessons with the Tunisian PGA-licensed instructor Salem Ayari, who is now one of the five teaching pros at Riyadh Golf Course.

“She’s good, has a very strong short game. I am proud of her, and I know she needs a good caddie to give her a push,” said Ayari of his talented former pupil.

“I wish her luck in her professional career,” added Ayari, whose wife Ghozlene Ayari won the 2019 Pan Arab Women’s Golf Championship but did not have the chance to defend her title due to the pandemic this year.

The interesting part in the Coughlin narrative is that she is a classic example of a golfer in the community who succeeded in making the giant leap to the big leagues.

“Once I started to get a lot better at golf, I thought I could try and compete. I went to Qualifying School and ended up playing well, and that’s how I knew I could compete out here,” said Coughlin, who earned her LET playing card in 2018.

But as she points out: “If it wasn’t for Saudi Arabia, where I picked up that golf club, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

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