LAHORE            -         Although women have been ardent golfers for over 50 years, yet ladies golf remained low key till 2015. Since then, due to the supportive attitude of the previous and current presidents of the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF), ladies golf has really taken off and achieved unimaginable heights.

In 2016, Gen Zaheer instituted the holding of an annual, exclusive, Ladies Golf Championship at the national level. This was a dream come true for the women golfers, who rose to the occasion to ensure the outstanding success of the 1st PGF Ladies Amateur Golf Championship, held at Lahore under Dr Asma Afzal Shami. Since then, similar championships have been held successfully in Karachi in 2017 under Mrs Tahira Raza and in Islamabad in 2018 under Ms Zeenat Ayesha.

In 2016, Gen Hilal, upon taking over as PGF President, took two strategic decisions that have propelled ladies golf beyond all expectations. Firstly, he set up a ‘Committee for Women and Girls Golf Development,’ that has provided them with a platform for formulating and pursuing their own ideas for developing women’s golf in Pakistan. Working under its dynamic chairperson, Dr Shami, and comprising Ms Zeenat Ayesha and Mrs Humera Khalid, this committee is working with commendable dedication to increase the scope and improve the quality of ladies golf.

It prevailed upon Punjab, Sindh and Federal Golf Associations to also hold annual ladies golf tournaments in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad respectively. Thus, with four exclusive women’s golf championships in a calendar year, ladies’ golf has certainly arrived and now forms a major part of the national golf scene. The response of lady golfers has been truly amazing. It is now, quite the norm, for them to band together and travel to other cities for participating in major golf tournaments.

In a further development, Dr Shami and Mrs Maimoona Azam, who is a member of the PGA’s executive committee, jointly developed a vision in 2019 for creating a ‘golfing nursery’ at the grassroots level by organising regular golf matches for girls aged 14 years and below. This has created a much-needed mechanism for ‘talent hunting’ aimed at discovering gifted young girls who could be nurtured into becoming future champions.

Sindh has already followed suit while Federal Golf Association is expected to do so shortly. Other notable initiatives, taken by various lady golfers, include the institution of the annual CAS Ladies Golf Match by Begum Mujahid, wife of the Air Chief, to popularise this sport amongst PAF families. Also noteworthy is the brainchild of Mrs Aisha Hamid of holding an annual, Inter Club, Ladies Golf Match between all the golf clubs of Lahore. While three such matches have already been held in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the trend has now percolated to Karachi and Islamabad.

However, it is Gen Hilal’s decision to propel the ladies golf onto the international stage that is proving to be the real ‘Game Changer.’ Inspite of resource constraints, the PGF has continued to send lady golfers abroad to represent Pakistan in international golf events. In March 2018, the PGF tasked Ms Zeenat to conduct a pilot project by inviting Bangladesh and Thailand to participate in the 3rd PGF Ladies Amateur Golf Championship held at Islamabad. Based on the lessons learnt from that experiment, it was decided to hold a full-fledged International Ladies Golf Championship in Lahore in March last year.

Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the near-war situation with India. However, as a result of intense pressure from the ladies lobby, the PGF re-sanctioned the holding of this event in February this year. It goes to the credit of Dr Asma Shami who, by her remarkable zeal, drive and persistence, single-handedly convinced Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Uganda, Afghanistan and Qatar, to participate in the 1st PGF International Ladies Amateur Golf Championship being held at Defence Raya Golf and Country Club Lahore from February 21 to 23.

This is truly an amazing achievement in today’s less than friendly environment. While Dr Shami will be overall responsible for conducting this historic event, she will be assisted by Mrs Sher Bano Hamdani (Lahore) as the Tournament Director and the management team comprising Ms Zeenat Aisha (Islamabad) and Ms Tahira Naqvi (Karachi). As this will be a major step in propagating our county’s soft image internationally, the first lady of Pakistan, Her Excellency Begum Samina Alvi, has consented to be the chief guest at its prize distribution ceremony.