She was born in Kazhakstan, studies in Switzerland and speaks four languages. Meet 22-year-old amateur golfer Jamila Jaxaliyeva, who is hoping to represent Kazakhstan at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Jaxaliyeva teed up in the 2013 Turkish Airlines Ladies Open at National Golf Club after receiving an invitation from event Promoter Mineks International. Although she was ill and missed the cut after rounds of 84 and 79, she feels that this was the start of a bigger journey: to Rio2016.
Her next stop will be France, where she is competing at the Fourqueux Ladies Open on June 6-8 and Wales, where she will be the first Kazakh ever to play for the British Women's Amateur title.
The confident Kazakh had a late introduction to golf, by Vladimir Shkolnik, professor of theoretical physics and one of the founders of golf in Kazakhstan, when she was aged 15. Her golfing education has been somewhat unorthodox, as she is coached by her father, Magzhan, an engineer who is very technically minded. The Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is a passionate golfer himself, gifted her first set of clubs and follows all of her results in tournaments.
An extremely talented mathematician, Jaxaliyeva recently decided to take a year out from her maths degree at the public University of Geneva to pursue her dream and concentrate on golf full-time.
She has been playing on the Suncoast Series in America and is planning to turn professional in August. Determined to become Kazakhstan’s first prominent golfer, she will attend qualifying school for the Symetra Tour in the USA in August before taking a third attempt at the LET’s Tour School for 2014.
“I’m hoping to be a popular golf player creating a good image for Kazakhstan and maybe the second person after Borat!” she said. “Maybe have a second option for what to think of for Kazakhstan, also Jamila: that would be great!
“I’m the first girl from Kazakhstan to play at the international level. I’d like to be the ambassador of it, introducing more golf to the country. We have lots of young kids that are playing already, seven, eight year olds with loads of talent, so I think that generation might bear fruit.”
Jamila's dream is to host a co-sanctioned event between the LET and LPGA in the capital of Kazakhstan Astana to give more impulsion to the sport’s development. She cites Lorena Ochoa as a big inspiration, not only in golf, but also her humanitarian work in Mexico.
Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world and shares borders with Russia, China and has access to the Caspian Sea. The country is partly European, partly Asian, not only geographically but also culturally. Many ethnicities, religions and nationalities live together peacefully.
There are currently seven golf courses in the country and many more are under construction. The Kazakh golf association is planning to construct the most modern and ecologically friendly golf course in the world for the upcoming 2017 Expo which will be staged in Astana.
There are three teaching professionals in Kazakhstan but 14-year-old Daulet Tuleubayev is perhaps the country’s most famous golfing export after he led the International Junior Golf Tour’s under-14 Rankings and competed in the Kazakhstan Open on the Challenge Tour in 2012. Three of Jaxaliyeva’s cousins, Issatay and Nurtay Jaxaliyev and Laura Kadyrova, are also making swift progress under the tutelage of her father, but she has the unique opportunity to become the first touring golf professional from one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
“My goal, obviously, is the Olympic Games in 2016. That’s really my plan. That’s why I took a year off because taking three semesters off golf was impossible for me because if you want to go to the Olympics you cannot just not play golf for a year and then get back,” she said.
“For the Olympics, the top 15 in the world ranking gets in; if I’m top 15 it would be great. I would like to go into the Olympic Games being the top, but first of all I have to get in, qualify, turn pro, you know, step by step. That’s my goal.
“We have the Expo in 2017 so it would be great to have the gold medal and get my country into the spotlight. That would be great. The Olympics is huge in Kazakhstan. In London, we won so many medals, we were better than many other countries, so we were really proud, so I hope that will work out if health and everything is good.”