Sharjah placed itself on the international golfing map with the announcement that the northern emirate will host its first ever international tournament – the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq.
The tournament will be part of European Seniors Tour, and it is the first time that a European Tour event – whether on main Tour, Challenge Tour or Seniors Tour – is being hosted by a nine-hole course, the Peter Harradine-designed Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club in this instance.
The announcement was made in the presence of four well-known stars of the Seniors Tour – Des Smyth, Ronan Rafferty, Paul Broadhurst and Malcolm Mackenzie – all of whom played the inaugural Dubai Desert Classic in 1989, which was the first international full-field event in the UAE.
Shurooq, the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, will be the main sponsors for the tournament offering a total purse of $450,000. The inaugural event of the three-year contract period will be played March 16 to 18, 2017. It will be supported by Sharjah Sports Council and the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.
This is the first Seniors Tour event since one in Bahrain in 2006, which was won by Irishman Smyth.
And the eight-time European Tour winner, said: “It’s wonderful to see how much the UAE, and the game of golf has developed since I first started coming here.
“It is fantastic news that Sharjah is going to join the stable of world-class golf events hosted in the UAE and all the players on the European Senior Tour will really enjoy coming to this wonderful destination.
“Of course, we would have loved Rory (McIlroy) to play the event, but he’d a bit underage to play with us! However, we have several established stars of our time, and we try very hard to put up a good show and make sure people enjoy their day.”
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director, European Senior Tour, said the Tour was charting a new course with the Sharjah tournament.
“Obviously, we’re delighted to be in Sharjah and complete the strong presence of European Tour through the Desert Swing and the Challenge Tour events. We do aspire to have a Seniors Tour Desert Swing one day, but this is a great start.
“I am absolutely certain that this is the first time the Seniors Tour is playing on a nine-hole course, and I think it has never been done before with the European Tour of the Challenge Tour. At the Senior Tour, we are more open to new ideas and our Chief Executive, Keith Pelley, has given us the mandate to try out new things, including formats.”
Stubbs added that Senior Tour Order of Merit champion Colin Montgomerie is aware of the event and is hopeful he will just be one of the many stars in action.
“Colin plays in the US, but the schedule is lean in March, so he is interested. But then you have guys like Paul McGinley, John Daly and Jose Maria Olazabal turning 50 this year, so it could be a very exciting field indeed,” said Stubbs.
Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal, Chief Executive Officer, Shurooq, said the tournament will provide the perfect platform to showcase the Emirate’s merits as an investment, tourism, sport and business destination.
Al Sarkal said: “Shurooq’s partnership with the European Senior Tour to present the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters is in line with our strategy and vision to promote Sharjah as one of the most diverse investment cities in the world.
“Our objective through this event is to continue promoting Sharjah’s facilities, services and tourism as a key destination for hosting some of the world’s most luxurious and bespoke sporting events of their kind.”
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulla Al Thani, Deputy Chairman, Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club, said: “Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club is truly delighted to be hosting such a high profile and international sporting event.
“This initiative has been in the pipeline for three or four years now and it is thrilling to finally announce the event.”
The announcement was marked with a curtain-raising Pro-Am event, the Sharjah Senior Invitational Pro-Am presented by Shurooq, which was supported by Emirates, BMW and the Sheraton Sharjah.
The 21-year-old English prodigy, from Chelmsford, flashed a glimpse of his precocious talent at the 2016 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, finishing in a tie for 45th on five-under – a creditable achievement which took his confidence to a new level, and mentally prepared him for one of the biggest decisions of his career.
“I was waiting for the right time, a time when you feel you are ready to take the next step in your career. Playing among the game’s elite at the Classic gave me the confidence that I can compete at the highest level and that’s where I want to be,” said Allan.
“You can’t put a price on what you learn from these world-class events; it’s an opportunity money can’t buy. I feel like my game is good enough to be out there. It’s just a matter of taking advantage of opportunities.
“I’ve enjoyed every bit of my amateur career, and winning the MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit title for two years in a row was certainly the high point of my career and motivated me to work harder on my game.”
Allan joins a long list of players who have taken the MENA Golf Tour route to launch their careers in the paid ranks.
Included in the list are the likes of 2015 MENA Golf Tour champion Thriston Lawrence, Tyler Hogarty of South Africa, Ahmed Marjan of Morocco, Ahmed Al Musharrekh of the UAE and the English duo of Max Williams and James Yeomans to name a few rising stars.
Jumeirah College emerged as champions of the Inter-Schools League, also known as the Dubai Schools League, which took place recently at the Troon Golf facility of Arabian Ranches Golf Club.
With the help of teachers and volunteers, in the past five months school golfers competed in four events.
The first three events took place at The Track, Meydan Golf Club, with the Grand Final played at Arabian Ranches. Jumeirah College had a very strong season finishing first in the first match, second in the following match, and tied first in the last two hames.
Amber Waitie, also from Jumeirah College, was the overall individual stableford winner for the 2015-2016 season.
Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) took second place after finishing winners in the second match and tied first in the last match. Dubai College were in third place after a slow start. However, strong performances in the last two events saw them finish third.
The Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) put together a team of Emiraiti Juniors who are training in the National Junior Development Program (NJPD) and on the National Squad. The EGF team finished in fifth place.
Funded by the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), the InterSchools League started in 2010 with only eight players and two schools.
Now the league has over 60 players representing 13 schools. The league has become a great example of how much golf has grown within the region.