Morocco’s Ines Laklalech has become the first golfer from North Africa to qualify for the LPGA tour, having been inspired by the coach behind her country’s World Cup run in Qatar.
Laklalech, 25, earned a spot on the premier tour in women’s golf despite shooting her worst round on the final day of the qualifying event in the United States.
The Casablanca resident fired a one-over par 73 in the final round at Highland Oaks in Dothan, Alabama on Sunday.
Yet she finished on 19 under par at the end of the eight-round tournament and shared 12th place – good enough to claim a much sought-after spot on next season’s tour.
“I’m a big fan of the Moroccan national team so I’m super, super happy,” Laklalech said. “It definitely gave me an extra boost on the course.”
The Atlas Lions have become the first African side to reach the semi-finals of football’s World Cup, and Laklalech has been using the positive attitude of Morocco coach Walid Regragui, when speaking about his squad, while out on the course.
“I’ve been watching very closely what the national coach is saying about the team because it’s history,” she said.
“His words really gave me confidence that everything is possible, because that’s their mindset right now. I think it’s all connected and related because I’ve been watching videos of the press conferences every single day.”
On Saturday, Laklalech took a big step towards securing her tour card when she made four birdies in the last four holes and posted her best round of the event, a six-under par 66, just as the country’s footballers were upsetting Portugal 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
Success on the world stage may be a new experience for Morocco’s men’s football team, but Laklalech is no stranger to making history.
In September, she won the Lacoste Ladies Open de France on the Ladies European Tour (LET) to become that tour’s first Moroccan, Arab and North African winner.
With four other top-10 finishes on the LET this season, her success in qualifying for the most high-profile tour in women’s golf is the latest chapter in a stellar year for sport in North Africa.
In July, Morocco reached the final of football’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Rabat, where they lost 2-1 to South Africa, and Olympic champion Soufiane El Bakkali won steeplechase gold at the World Athletics Championships in the United States.
Meanwhile, Tunisian tennis player Ons Jabeur became the first North African to reach the singles final of a Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon in July – before impressively repeating the feat a few months later at the US Open.
The 28-year-old finished as runner-up on both occasions, but ended the season with the WTA’s Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award, voted for by her peers and announced on Sunday, for “demonstrating conduct befitting of a professional sports figure and observing the rules of fair play”.