Tragedy at Dubai Ladies Masters as caddie dies

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French player Anne-Lise Caudal is consoled in Dubai.

Tragedy struck day one of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters when caddie Max Zechmann collapsed and later died in the hospital. The incident led to the Ladies European Tour and organisers ‘golf in DUBAi’ to suspend the opening round.

At approximately 10:00am GST, Zechmann – who was caddying for French player Anne-Lise Caudal – slumped on the fairway of the 13th hole. He was attended by the paramedics of the golf course, before being rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Play was first suspended for one at 10.30am as officials waited for news, and later, for the whole day.

Austrian native Zechmann, 56, was a former caddie on the European Tour where he carried the bag for compatriot Marcus Brier and German Marcel Siem.

He is believed to have retired in 2014 and moved to Dubai. He wasn’t a regular caddie on the Ladies European Tour, and is said to have been a ‘walk-in’ to assist Caudal for the week.

Zechmann is survived by his wife Eleanor, and three sons.

In a statement released, LET CEO Ivan Khodabakhsh said: “Everyone at the Ladies European Tour is extremely shocked and saddened today by this sudden death and therefore we have taken the decision to suspend first round play as a mark of respect.

“On behalf of our membership, we offer heartfelt condolences to the individual’s family and loved ones.”

Later, speaking to Sport360, Khodabaksh added: “I don’t think it was a difficult decision (to suspend play). As soon as we understood it was serious case, we then decided to suspend play in order to collect the facts and understand what’s going on.

“We don’t want players to be traumatised and also, it was out of respect for the person involved so we could provide our full attention to the case.”

Khodabaksh said he had spoken Caudal after the incident and added: “I’ve been speaking to a number of players and of course, I spoke to Anne-Lise. Without question, she was pretty shocked and shaken. She’s surrounded by her many friends right now. But yes, it’s tragic to see somebody like that.”

American Beth Allen, leading the Order of Merit this week, said she completely understood the decision by the organisers to suspend day’s play under the circumstances.

“I hundred per cent agree with the decision that was made out of respect for him and his family. I don’t think anybody has any qualms about it,” said Allen.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi said: “We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Mr Zechmann. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time. May his soul rest in peace.”

In the time play was possible in the opening round, England’s Florentyna Parker had raced to seven-under par after nine holes, while Cheyenne Woods was four-under par after six. Australia’s Witney Hillier made a hole-in-one on the fourth hole and was three-under par after five.

Round one will resume Thursday and the tournament will now be played over 54 holes.

Sport360 reporter Joy Chakravarty covered the immensely sad developments on Twitter.

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New frontiers: Maha Haddioui.

The Ladies European Tour has been ending its season every year in Dubai with the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters for the past 10 years, and this year, Abu Dhabi and Doha joined the schedule with the inaugural Fatima Bint Ladies Open and the Qatar Ladies Open.

The 28-year-old from Casablanca, who is enjoying one of her finest seasons on the Tour and is currently 46th in the Order of Merit, welcomed the new additions to the Tour. She even notched her career best LET finish in Abu Dhabi – a tied for 14th place.

“It’s great that we are having a lot of tournaments in Morocco and the Middle East. It’s something I’m really happy about and I proud of. I think it’s a region that has a lot to offer to women’s golf, and women’s golf has a lot to offer, also, to the region. It’s a good thing,” said Haddioui.

“The way it started, Morocco and Dubai have really been like the first ones to do it, and they have set a tradition of doing the women’s tournaments. It’s had a positive impact on other countries that are now doing it, so it’s great.

“Of course. The Arab world is not getting the best publicity now with what’s happening. People think differently of the region we’re in. And I think organising women’s events in any sport, is a good thing.

“You come here and it just feels like it could be anywhere; you could be in the US and it would feel the exact same way. And really, a lot of people don’t know that.

“Even for players coming here, and just posting pictures and seeing things. I mean, obviously everyone knows about Dubai. It’s Dubai; it’s really cool. But it gives out a statement for the whole region and it’s really opened and it’s doing now as much for the women as it has for the men.”

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Moment in the sun: Charley Hull is confident

Having secured her Rookie of the Year honour here in 2013, followed by winning the Order of Merit the next year, England’s Charley Hull now wants to complete the set by winning this week’s Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.

Hull is not in contention for the Order of Merit this year, having played only three events on the LET schedule, but riding on a wave of confidence having won her first LPGA Tour title (CME Group Tour Championship) just a fortnight ago.

Speaking to the media on the eve of the “I feel pretty good with my golf game at the moment. So I will hopefully try to look for a win here because I’ve never actually won the tournament here. It would be pretty cool to finish the season on a high.

“Yeah, I do have great memories of this event. It’s fun. I like it. Especially winning the Rookie of the Year, because I remember it being quite close between me and Holly (Clyburn). I kind of felt the pressure, but played well for it.

The year after, there was a bit of a battle between me and Gwladys (Nocera), but I played well again.”

One of the reasons the 20-year-old Hull is confident about her chances is because she loves the Majlis course of Emirates Golf Club.

“I really enjoy the golf course. Ever since I first had a look three years ago, I’ve loved it. I think it’s a great golf course. I think it’s well designed,” she added.

“I like it when they play it like a little bit longer like they did a couple years ago but they shortened it the last two years, but I think it brings more people in. It’s just a great course and I think I can go low around here.”

Hull’s biggest challenge will be against world No4 Shanshan Feng, who is a three-time champion in Dubai.

However, a trick that she learned from the Chinese star makes Hull feel she can take her down this year.

“I’ve played a lot with Shanshan and I’ve enjoyed playing with her,” said the world No18.

“I actually learned something off Shanshan a few weeks back, because when she won in Japan, she said that she doesn’t look at scoreboards on the way around. So I also didn’t look at the scoreboards when I played in America at the CME event, and I won. So, hopefully, I can do it again this week.

“It was hard not to see the boards to begin with, and then it was fine. Just don’t look at them.

“But I am just going to keep on playing my own game. I would like to win but at the end of the day I want to concentrate on hitting one shot at a time and try to get four good rounds of golf together.”

Hull is paired with two-time major champion Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Nocera. They will tee off at 7:45 from the 10th tee.

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