Saadia Naeem ’20 is one of the newest members of the Cardinal golf team. She is from Scarsdale, N.Y. and is one of two females on the golf team, alongside Giselle Reyes ’18. The Cardinals have competed in two tournaments so far this fall. They are looking to improve on their results this upcoming weekend at the Williams Fall Invite before competing in the NESCAC qualifying tournament on Oct. 1 and 2 in Middlebury, VT. If Naeem doesn’t start her season at Williams this weekend, she will begin with the women’s NESCAC qualifying tournament in October. The Argus sat down with Naeem to learn more about her golfing career.
The Argus: What made you decide to come to Wesleyan?
Saadia Naeem: I visited during WesFest and every person I met was cool, nice, and welcoming, and that was a change from what I was used to in the best way possible.
A: When did you get involved in playing golf?
SN: I grew up playing with my dad on the course, so from a really young age I was going to the range with him, or practicing with him, but I wasn’t really committed to it in any way and I thought it was kind of boring, and I wasn’t really interested in it at all. I played and hung out with my parents at the course over the summer and that’s what we did in our free time, and when I started high school we had a girls’ team and I joined and met other girls who were interested too, and it stopped being this sport that only old people play and became more interesting to me.
A: Did you come here knowing you would be playing on the golf team?
SN: I didn’t know I would be playing on the team until the beginning of the summer, after I had committed to the school.
A: Had you talked to the coaches beforehand?
SN: I emailed the coach over the summer, and at the time I thought the team was only a men’s team, but I thought they wouldn’t be opposed to taking me if I asked. When I reached out, [Head Coach Jeff Gilarde] told me there were other girls interested as well, so he was planning on starting a women’s team. However, not all the girls ended up following through so there aren’t actually enough girls for a separate women’s team, so it’s a co-ed team.
A: Does the NESCAC have women’s golf?
SN: Yeah, and I could play in any of the tournaments happening now [in the fall], but I’d have to play from the men’s tees, but I’m totally open to that.
A: What do you like about being on the golf team so far?
SN: Everyone I met through the team so far has been really cool and welcoming, and even though there’s only two first-years on the team, [at practice] no one treats you differently for being a first-year and no one treats me differently for being a girl, so that’s really nice.
TA: Have you felt any discrimination or sexual bias from the team or from your golfing experience in general?
SN: Definitely not on the team; everyone is really welcoming. But it’s kind of annoying that I can’t play in women’s tournaments yet because we don’t have enough women for an actual women’s team, so we don’t qualify as a women’s team and can’t play in women’s tournaments yet. It’s a little frustrating that I can’t play every weekend like the guys can [unless it was from the men’s tees]. On a larger scale, everywhere I have been, the amount of women that play is so small, and we recently switched country clubs. And my mom has been talking about how “finding women to play with has been tough because not that many women play.” It’s changing with our generation because a lot more girls my age play so I think in 10 or 15 years, it’ll be a lot different than it is now, but there’s still a long way to go.
A: How helpful has Coach Gilarde been?
SN: Yeah, every time that I’ve played he’s gone out with my group, and he knows his stuff. In high school, my coach didn’t really play with us and always took a step back because he didn’t want to infringe on any lessons girls had received from private coaches, so it’s nice that Coach Gilarde will actually give advice. And he’s calming; it’s nice to have him there and to play with him.
A: Any interesting facts about your golfing or anything else you want to tell The Argus?
SN: I always kind of knew my drives went pretty far, and people would always stop me on the range and say, “Whoa, you’re hitting it really far,” but I never actually took the time to figure out how far. But there’s been times when my drives went 300 yards, and I didn’t realize the scope of how far that actually is. 300 is my best drive when I get lucky. Right now, I hit an average of 280, but I Googled which professional golfers hit around 300 yards and Rory McIlroy hits around 300, but he does that regularly and 300 is my max. So sometimes I hit it as far as Rory McIlroy does.