We caught up with Natou Soro, from the Ivory Coast, who now lives in Italy, during the OCA Augas Santas International Ladies Open and this is what she told us about herself and how she started to play golf:
“I live in Parma, Italy, but I was born in the North of Ivory Coast, where I started to play golf aged 14. Slowly, I continued playing small competitions and I have been the Ivory Coast champion many times. I started travelling overseas representing my country and from there, in 2000, I won the All-African Championship and went to South Africa to start my professional career.
I have tried a few times to qualify for the Ladies European Tour through the Qualifying School, the first time was in 2000-2001, and my best result was in 2004 in Italy, where I missed the final cut by one shot. I used to also play on the South African Ladies Tour and played some professional events in Sweden on the Telia Tour in 2006.
I married my boyfriend in 2007, who is also from the Ivory Coast but was living in Italy. We have two children, a boy called Bryan and a girl named Rania, who are five and two years old. Since then, I am based in Italy and stopped playing golf until this week.
This will be my first tournament for a long time. The pressure this week is not just to play the tournament after such a long time, but also leaving my kids in Italy. This was really difficult and I miss them very much.
I know it is not usual to find a golf player from the Ivory Coast so I will explain how I started: I was attending a school where we learned sports and studies together. It was a girl’s school and we also slept there. When I was 14 years-old, the teacher, who was French and a golf player, decided to take some of his pupils to the golf course. It was called President Golf Club in Yamoussoukro, where I grew up.
The first time I had a golf club in my hands was a 9-iron and I hit a really good shot, high and long, out of bounds….(laughs….) So, since that first day my teacher took me with some other girls every Sunday to continue practicing golf. At the beginning, golf was not my favourite sport, because we practiced many other sports at the school. I preferred basketball or handball, golf to me was more relaxed game but I decided to focus on golf not because I loved the game but because I was really good at it and the main reason was because it also gave me an opportunity to bring money to my family.
All the time I was winning small competitions and any golf glove, other prizes, golf balls, etc., they were very valuable and I could sell them to help my family at home. We were not wealthy and life was tough. Then I started to realise that golf could help me more and this is when I started to take it more seriously.
The first time I won an important tournament for my country, I brought the trophy home (but I did not sell this one, laughs….). It was so nice and so big. From there the joy started and I also started to love the game. I realised that there were many good things about playing golf and this is when I moved to South Africa.
In 2007, as I mentioned before, I moved to Italy to marry my husband. I live in Parma now, but I also miss home, where my family still live, which is the Ivory Coast. I hope to visit them shortly so they can meet my children in person.
My son Bryan asked me what I was doing here in Galicia this week, so I told him that I was coming to play a golf tournament. He also asked me to bring him the trophy back home, so he could take it to his school and show it to his friends. This would make him very proud of his mother in front of all his school friends.
For me golf is everything and I would love to play all the time, but I do not have any plans. With the kids and my golf teaching, it is difficult to organise yourself. I am currently teaching golf in a Chip & Putt in Parma, Parma Golf &Country Club, which has one of the best driving ranges in the area, really beautiful and I love working there. We will see when is the next tournament that I will be able to play.
This is my first time back after one year without hitting a ball, and I am full of pressure and emotions. I am not sure how I will manage my emotions. So, let’s see how it goes. My putting is really good, which it was not before, but the girls now can hit it very long.
But for me, just being here it is a prize and I will try to have fun and enjoy the tournament at the OCA Augas Santas Ladies international Open.”
Best of luck this week! I hope you can take the trophy back to Parma and make your kids happy….