When Oumou Dieye first started competing against men in the sport of golf, she was not confident. She said she felt a little afraid.
And she said, the men did not want to golf with her nor did they take her seriously.
But then, she won her first game.
After that, she had all the confidence she needed to keep playing and defeating male golfers.
Dieye is the only professional female golfer in Senegal. She competes almost only against men. As she walks on the golf course in Saly, Senegal, she talks to other golfers, who are all men.
“Now, I (am) used to playing with men. I train in the morning, noon and night. I (am) in the gym three or four times per week,” she said. “So, that also gives me ... confidence.”
Dieye became a professional player seven years ago. That means she is paid for competing in the sport. She has won many competitions, including ones in Thailand, Kenya, and South Africa.
She was introduced to golf by her brother-in-law and immediately fell in love.
“Golf is a complete sport,” she said. “You walk, you think, and you concentrate. And it (is) physical, too.”
Not long after she began competing, Dieye was given a chance to train in Morocco. With the financial support from her French golf partners in Saly, she spent three months training with the Moroccan Golf Federation.
She said she enjoyed the experience so much that she returned to Morocco and stayed for seven years. While there, she also taught children at a golfing school.
Today her home is filled with many golfing awards. She has won so many that she does not know the exact number. Or in other words, she says she has lost track.
What she has done is notable because Senegal is a conservative, Muslim nation. Observers say there is pressure from society for women not to be involved in professional sports.
More than 95 percent of Senegalese are Muslim. The country practices a more liberal form of Islam. However, the culture still has traditional ideas of what women should do. A woman who chooses sports over duties at home risks being rejected by her family.
“When you (are) Muslim, we prefer to keep girls at home, to find them a husband and make them a housewife,” she said.
At first, her family was not supportive. But after seeing her love of the sport, they changed their minds. They permitted her to leave Dakar to move in with her brother-in-law near the golf course in Saly.
Now, Dieye lives with her four children and husband. He not only plays golf with her but often carries her golf equipment for her.
In 2018, when Dieye returned from Morocco, she was not happy about the state of golf in her home country. She wanted to create a golf school similar to the one in Morocco.
“In order to develop golf, we need to focus on the kids,” she said.
The Senegalese Golf Federation was founded in 1991. There are now about 30 professional players around the country. But the group does not have a lot of money. There also are only two golf courses in the country.
In 2020, the federation agreed to help Dieye establish a golf school in preparation for the 2026 Summer Youth Olympics in Dakar. It will be the first Olympic Games of any kind to be held in Africa. The 2022 Games were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It will be Dieye’s job to train Senegal’s first national golf team. This will involve preparing female golfers – including her own daughter.
The president of the Senegal Golf Federation is Baidy Agne. He said the federation is “prepared and committed” to support the girls in their training equally with the boys.
Women make up the majority of the population in Senegal, Agne added, and they must not be left behind. “Oumou can be a very good role model for these girls,” he said.
Oumou Dieye says she hopes to find a sponsor so she can continue to compete internationally and bring the next generation of Senegalese female golfers into the world.
I’m Anna Matteo.
Annika Hammerschlag reported this story from Sali, Senegal. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
confident –n. a feeling that you can do something and succeed at it
gym (gymnasium) –n. a room or building that has equipment for sports activities
concentrate –v. to place all of one’s attention on something
golf course –n. an area of land where the game of golf is played
focus –v. to direct attention to or on something
role model –n. a person other people look up to and want to be like
committed –adj. willing to give your time and energy to something