Swedish golfer Anna Nordqvist has cut short her ambassadorship deal with Saudi oil company Aramco after facing harsh criticism over the collaboration, she said on Friday.
“It didn’t really turn out the way I thought it would,” 35-year-old Nordqvist told Swedish news agency TT in an interview.
“I need to think about myself and I haven’t felt good about this,” she said, adding: “I wasn’t really prepared to get such an incredible amount of hatred and mean comments from people who don’t even know me .”
Aramco is primarily owned by the Saudi Arabian state, which has invested billions in international sporting events in recent years. Critics accuse the conservative kingdom of “sportswashing” its human rights record.
Amnesty International — which along with sports commentators had criticized her tie-up — welcomed her decision, calling it “very wise”.
Nordqvist said she had hoped the ambassadorship announced a year ago would enable her to promote women’s golf.
“It was never about money for me, I wanted to do something for ladies’ golf and especially for the European Tour,” she said.
Nordqvist said she would nevertheless still be teeing up in Saudi Arabia next week.
“I need to get in four tournaments on the European Tour before August because my big goal is to play in the Solheim Cup,” she said.
“I feel it’s important to play all over the world, to influence younger generations to dream big.”
Another Swedish golfer, Henrik Stenson, has also received strong criticism for joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, and was stripped of the Ryder Cup captaincy in July last year.
The rebel LIV tour ripped apart men’s golf last year when it signed a host of the sport’s biggest stars.