Noor Ahmed was 13-year-old and seventh-grader when she made up her mind to start wearing a hijab. It was an important decision for the American-born daughter of Egyptian immigrants , who knew it would have consequences.
“Some people just said she’s not one of us anymore,” she said of those who turned their backs.
In her time of turmoil, the First Tee of Greater Sacramento and the golf community stepped up. The First Tee is a “youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people,” according to their website. Before her initial First Tee outing after her decision to wear a hijab, Ahmed was nervous about the reaction her headscarf, and public covering of her arms and legs, might elicit.
“No one seemed to notice,” she said. “No one seemed to care. I was just the same kid. I was just Noor. It was the best response.”
When Ahmed, an 18-year-old graduate of Vista del Lago High School, begins classes next month on a golf scholarship at the University of Nebraska, she will become one of the most accomplished First Tee alumnae..
Painfully shy as a little girl, she was bullied and ignored throughout elementary school. As she grew older, classmates would befriend her while seeking assistance with homework assignments, then shun “the nerd” when they no longer needed her help.
She thought of herself as unworthy of friendship, her self-esteem nonexistent.
Ahmed likes studying people who have struggled with similar questions.
“Growing up as a Muslim-American after 9/11 is really hard, but I think it’s important to have friends of every faith, and especially friends of your faith who are struggling together,” she said.
About 1 percent of the United States’ 322 million people are Muslim, and Ahmed has not seen anyone else wearing a headscarf on a golf course. She gets looks, she said, acknowledging it’s normal for anyone to question something so different. She welcomes inquiries.
“I love explaining why I wear the hijab,” she said. “I think it’s important. I’d rather people approach me than stare from afar.
“When it’s hot, a lot of people think it’s some sort of sun shield. Or it provides warmth when it’s cold. In the golf world, I think it’s helped me. It’s one way that I’m different from everybody else. At tournaments, I’m really easy to spot — ‘Oh, it’s Noor.’ It’s a little harder when it’s 105 degrees. It’s hot. I’m feeling it, but I’m used to it.”