Spain’s Emma Cabrera-Bello and her team won the Gary Player Invitational, but ‘Golf and Giving’ was the biggest winner as nearly 100 professional golfers, celebrities, sporting greats and business leaders joined host and course designer, Gary Player, at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
Cabrera-Bello’s team tallied 12-under par for the round, which was one better than the team led by Chris Wood.
Three teams – led by Georgia Hall, David Howell and the UAE’s only professional golfer Ahmed Al Musharrekh – tied for the third place at 10-under par.
The tournament raised more than Dh183,000 for children from Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care & Special Needs.
Held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, under the patronage of HH Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi event was the first of six 2017 global series events, which together have helped The Player Foundation raise more than Dh227 million for charities worldwide.
Among the special guests for the second edition of the tournament in the UAE capital included golf pros Darren Clarke and Trevor Immelmann; cricket greats, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara, as well as Boyzlife singers, Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy.
Joining Clarke, Immelman, Wood, Howell and Cabrera-Bello in representing professional golfers at the event were Beth Allen, winner of the inaugural Fatima Bint Mubarak Open at the same course last year, Joost Luiten, Caroline Martens, Jason Scrivener, Victoria Lovelady, Victor Dubuisson and Thomas Aiken.
Springbok great Victor Matfield, model, racing car driver and television personality, Jodie Kidd, and the UAE’s own, Emirati comedian, Ali Al Sayed also added some serious star-power to the event.
Host Gary Player said: “I simply love visiting Abu Dhabi and of course, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is special.
“Once again, we had an amazing experience in the emirate and I congratulate the UAE’s leadership on building such a beautiful, safe and welcoming country. It was a pleasure to show so many of my fellow athletes and friends, what a magical place this truly is.”
Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “The Gary Player Invitational represents both the best of sport, as well as the best of Abu Dhabi.
“Bringing some of the world’s most iconic athletes together here in Abu Dhabi to raise funds for such a worthy cause highlights the emirate’s strong sporting credentials as it also remains true to the spirit of generosity that Abu Dhabi is known for.
“It is our hope that the fond memories created at The Gary Player Invitational remain with our visitors long after they return home, just as their generosity will remain with the children of the Zayed Higher Organization.”
Key supporters of the events include the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Etihad Airways, TDIC, the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, SAP and Rolex. The 2017 event is the second event in what is a five-year agreement to host the event in Abu Dhabi.
For the better part of the morning, it looked like Peter Schmeichel’s Celebrity All Stars would spring a massive surprise, but the Professionals fought back to score a comprehensive win in the Abu Dhabi Invitational.
In the end, the score read a lop-sided 14-5 in favour of Paul McGinley’s team, but a couple of hours into the tournament, the Celebrities All Stars were leading in 11 of the 19 matches.
Cricketers were the stars for the Celebrity team, with England fast bowler James Anderson beating the reigning DP World Tour champion Matthew Fitzpatrick 1-up, while the swashbuckling Brian Lara was a 2 & 1 winner over Steven Tiley.
And the recently-retired South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis was three-up after 12 holes against Paul Waring, before the Englishman rallied to halve his match.
The tournament format was Pairs Betterball Matchplay, with each Professional and Celebrity paired with a VIP guest.
The performance of the day was from captain McGinley and his brother, the Dubai-based Michael, who combined for an excellent score of 60. And yet, they were stretched to the 16th hole by rival skipper Schmeichel and his partner, Alberto Valenzuela.
“I am extremely tired, but what a fun day we had,” said Schmeichel after the round. “Paul and his brother played fabulous golf, but I am so happy that we put up a fight.
“See, in the end, it does not matter if we lost. I think that is the sentiment of most of my team members. We enjoyed it a lot, and most of us were not a disgrace. We competed well.
“But these guys do this for a living day in and day out. They are good. We were getting tired out there on the golf course. It is a long course, it is a difficult course and it was windy out there. Before long, we were losing our concentration, but not the Professionals. They were focused, and they made all the putts that they needed to.”
McGinley, who has a 100 per cent record as captain in team championships, was delighted to keep that record intact.
“It really is good to win, because out there, everyone is a world-class competitor,” said the man who led Europe to win in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
“To be honest, everyone will go home a winner today. Some of us have been friends, but we have become even better friends over these last couple of days. And some of us have made new friends. On top of it, we managed to raise significant amount of money for the local charities. What more do you want?” said McGinley.
“Of course, for me personally, it will be a day I will remember for a long time. To be able to play with Michael and to combine so well and shoot 60, that was special.”
Such a fun weekend - congrats to all especially our team !!! https://t.co/a3M66kuFKZ— Paul McGinley (@mcginleygolf) January 29, 2017
Playing for the Professionals was UAE’s own Ahmed Al Musharrekh, who lost to rugby legend Mike Tindall.
But Ahmed said it was a great learning experience for him.
“To be honest, I am struggling with my game a bit. I am not yet as sharp as I want to be after the one-year absence because of military duty,” said the man who won the Abu Dhabi Invitational last year in the company of American star Bryson DeChambeau when it was played in a different format.
“I don’t know much about rugby but I read about Mike when I knew I was playing with him. And the one thing that struck me was how nice he was to everyone on the golf course and how popular he is. That taught me a few things and reinforced my belief that it is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”
The UAE’s Year of Giving is set to get a significant boost with the announcement of the star-studded line-up for the upcoming Gary Player Invitational at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
More than 20 professional golfers, celebrities and sports stars are set to join Gary Player for the UAE’s second annual Gary Player Invitational on February 6 in Abu Dhabi.
Held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, under the Patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the 2017 Gary Player Invitational raises funds for the Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care & Special Needs, joining five other global events in a series that together has helped The Player Foundation raise more than $62 million for charities worldwide.
Among the male pros confirmed to join Gary Player this February are Darren Clarke, Chris Wood, Joost Luiten, Victor Dubuisson, Jason Scrivener, David Howell, as well as fellow South Africans Thomas Aiken and Trevor Immelman.
Representing the female pros are last year’s winner of the inaugural Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open Beth Allen; Georgia Hall, Caroline Martens, Emma Cabrera-Bello, and Victoria Lovelady.
Celebrities and sporting icons also set to join the golf professionals Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Springbok rugby legend Victor Matfield.
For more information on the Gary Player Invitational series, visit www.garyplayerinvitational.com and follow @GPInvitational on Twitter and Instagram- #GOLFandGIVING.