Not afraid to fail is the mantra of Dubai teenage golf sensation taking the game by storm
A 16-year-old golf sensation who lives and studies in Dubai has had a blistering first year on the professional circuit.
German-born Chiara Noja is the youngest European golfer to win a professional tournament.
This year, she must carve out time to study for crucial GCSE exams while playing against the best in the world.
Confident and confident, the teenager stunned the golfing world when she won her first Ladies European Tour title, the Aramco Team Series in Jeddah last November, just a year after turning professional.
I try to do the best that I can every day that I go out
Chiara Noja, the rising star of teenage golf
Chiara spoke to The National about coping with the pressure on the circuit and completing maths homework on the plane back to Dubai after her big win in 2022.
“I was brought up in an environment where I was always taught to be uncomfortable and almost comfortable being uncomfortable. It really helps with mental toughness,” he said. she said during a break after practice at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
When she won in her age category as a child, her father Tom Noja placed her in the upper age bracket.
“So I was always able to play against better players and I was always challenged, which was really good for me,” she said.
Hit the books and start
Chiara swung her first club at the age of three when her parents took her golfing on a weekend in Berlin.
The family moved to the UK when she was seven and moved to Dubai three years ago.
Her parents chose Gems FirstPoint School in Dubai which allows her to study while continuing to train during the week and offers online training when she attends international events.
Anxious to get good grades, Chiara sets aside time for homework in the morning or evening during tournaments.
“I play my rounds, then I get my books out and study,” the Grade 11 student said.
“I’m studying on the flight home. It’s part of the journey for me, it’s normal.
“Of course it’s difficult but I think I’m doing a good job so far and I’ll keep trying to do that.”
She was in the media spotlight long before she turned professional at the age of 15.
She came second in the UK in the County Women’s Championship at age 12 and won the Scottish Girls Under-12 Open Championship.
At 13, she tops the European U14 rankings.
A strong support system from her parents and friends in Dubai makes her feel like a “normal kid”.
“I really had the opportunity to grow into myself,” she said.
“I also have the chance to meet successful players who come here to play and I can learn from them.
“Coming to Dubai and school was a very good decision for me.
“I’ve made close friends who know that I can’t always pick up the phone because I’m in training or at tournaments.
“They have been so supportive and encouraged me every step of the way.
“These are really things you can’t take for granted and I appreciate that every day.”
To be fearless
Her father has been her coach since she started playing. Watching him react with tears to his big win in Jeddah was an emotional moment.
“I didn’t cry, I think I was a bit shocked when I won,” she said.
“All day I was tense, my concentration was so high and I pushed myself not to be afraid.
“But I know my dad is emotional. He has a tough exterior but inside he cares more than anyone.
“He puts his heart and soul into everything we do so there’s not a moment where I’m not grateful for everything he does.
“Seeing him cry was gratifying because I felt like I was making him proud, which was a beautiful feeling.”
Mr Noja, a former professional footballer in Germany, said pitting her against experienced golfers was instrumental in the growth of her game.
“I know how important it is to be prepared for life and life is not easy,” he said.
“For me it was important that Chiara had the opportunity to find the balance between victory and failure.
“It’s not just about golf, it’s about life. You fail, you make a mistake, you learn from it, and you improve.
Learn to “type”
Meeting her idols such as New Zealand golfing superstar Lydia Ko, who won top honors as a teenager, was an inspiration to Chiara.
“Lydia Ko was one of my biggest role models, she gave me some advice and it was really interesting to have a conversation with a player of this caliber,” she said.
“In a letter to herself as a teenager, she explained that when you’re young, every putt will feel like a tap-in, that everything seems possible but everything can also change.”
“I engraved ‘tap-in’ on my putter. Every time I watch it, I get a little more motivated. It is just this conviction that I can.
Mature beyond her years, she has practical advice for the youngest.
“I tell them — don’t be afraid to fail — that’s the lesson I had to learn. There is no easy way, no shortcut, it takes practice,” she said.
“Don’t let the mind wander and do strange things on the golf course.
“Think about what you’re trying to accomplish, think about your goals and commit to them, and do whatever you can to make it happen.”
The best in the world
Chiara’s dream is to be world number one, but she’s practical enough to realize that others share the same burning ambition.
Staying mentally strong, working hard on all aspects of his game and trying to “get as close to perfection as possible” are some of his goals.
“My main goal is to make sure my mindset is right, to make sure I’m brave and committed,” Chiara said.
“I try to do the best I can every day I go there.
“And I try to win. Whether I do it or not is another story, because golf is really, really hard.
“My goal is to be number one in the world, but I guess that’s everyone’s dream.
“So the question is can I do it and play the golf that I need.”
Updated: 02 February 2023, 04:22