Scotland’s Carly Booth has encountered an online backlash after announcing a sponsorship deal with Golf Saudi in social media posts that were subsequently deleted.
Booth wrote on Twitter and Instagram: “I am honoured to represent @Golf_Saudi as they acknowledge that women in sport is of paramount importance. Although culturally they are in a different place to some countries, they are doing everything they can to introduce girls and women into sport and lead healthy lifestyles.”
The post was met by fierce criticism, with the former US golfer and Guardian writer Anya Alvarez among those to question the promotion of Golf Saudi before the posts were deleted on Wednesday evening.
Scottish Golf appointed Booth as an ambassador for the women’s game in March. On its website the organisation has said she works with it in a voluntary capacity, in line with its strategy to boost golf participation among young women and girls, and has no plans to revise that partnership as a result of the controversy.
The body on Thursday distanced itself from the 26-year-old’s involvement with Golf Saudi, with a spokesperson insisting any matters arising from sponsorship deals were for Booth and her management to address.
Although the posts were deleted, Golf Saudi was still listed as a sponsor on her website at the time of writing. The Guardian has contacted Booth’s management and Scottish Golf for further comment.
“Writing ‘culturally in a different place’, as in women just got the right to drive, are able to finally attend sporting events if they are seated separately from men, and where [the] death penalty is executed against women’s rights activists. Cool, Carly,” Alvarez tweeted in response.
She later added: “This lacks total awareness of the human-rights violations inflicted on women in Saudi Arabia … until SA stops murdering & imprisoning women’s rights activists there is no reason to be an ambassador for them.”
The Talksport presenter Georgie Bingham wrote: “Crikey Carly, I think you might want to head to Google and a bit of ‘women’s rights, Saudi Arabia’ before announcing that.”
The Perthshire golfer revealed news of the deal on the same day that Saudi Arabia announced the mass execution of 37 of its citizens for alleged terrorism-related crimes – an action condemned as “repulsive” and “utterly unacceptable in the modern world” by the UK Foreign Office.
The men’s European Tour visited Saudi Arabia for the first time in January this year, in a move that drew widespread criticism. Justin Rose, Sergio García and Dustin Johnson, the eventual winner, were among those who took part. Brandel Chamblee, a pundit for the Golf Channel, labelled those who participated as “ventriloquists for this abhorrent, reprehensible regime”.
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Golf Saudi is also reportedly planning to host a women’s tournament in the kingdom. “The old story of Saudi Arabia that it’s segregated is no longer applicable,” Majed al-Sorour, the federation’s chief executive officer, said in February.
Booth, who is ranked No 351 in the world and 15th on the Ladies European Tour order of merit, played at a pro-am event in Saudi Arabia this year. Shortly after deleting her posts, she cryptically wrote on Instagram: “God, goals, growing and glowing.”