The 24-year-old American has been appointed the new Official Starter of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – the longest-running European Tour event, aptly tag-lined ‘Made for Greatness’, in recognition of her growing global influence in the game of golf.
A college golf standout at San Diego State, Spiranac is no stranger to Dubai, having competed in the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic in 2015 and 2016, but it will be the first time she will assume the podium on the first tee, hoping to leave behind a collection of happy memories to savour.
“I am absolutely delighted and feel privileged to have been offered this interesting role by the promoters. Meeting and interacting with many of the greats of the game on the first tee will be just awesome. I just can’t wait to get started,” Spiranac said.
“It will be my first time in a role like this and I’m excited about this opportunity. As the field attracts players from so many different countries, getting the pronunciation of their names right will also be challenging and fun.
“Playing in Dubai in the last two years was a great learning curve for me both inside and outside the ropes. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and I am looking forward to being a part of the Dubai family again,” said Spiranac, who became a social media phenomenon when her golf team at San Diego State created a trick-shot video that got millions of views.
The golf influencer, who has more social media followers than any LPGA Tour professional, helped to guide her San Diego University to victory in the 2015 Mountain West Conference Golf Championship and won the Colorado State Match Play Tournament.
Spiranac made the cut at the 2016 Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links and went on to capture her first professional victory on the Cactus Tour later in the year.
David Spencer, the tournament director and advisor of Golf in Dubai, the promoters and organisers of the event, said: “Paige belongs to a new breed of golfers who are fun-loving and pro-active on social media, bringing a vibrant atmosphere to the course.
“I think it’s great for the game to open up to social media savvy platforms in whatever capacity it can to attract new talent and a wider audience. Paige is an interesting character, one who lends her celebrity status to a number of charity events. She’s got a heart of gold.
“We look forward to welcoming her at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January and hope her presence will draw a huge gallery to the first tee, pretty much setting in stone her relationship with the city. I think we have some exciting times ahead of us.”
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic, now in its 29th year, will get under way at Emirates Golf Club from January 25 to 28, 2018.
— OMEGA Golf Dubai (@OMEGAGolfDubai) October 12, 2017
As the countdown to the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge begins, Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm is looking to Jordan Smith, winner of last year’s inaugural event, for inspiration in one of the European Challenge Tour’s most-significant events.
Taking place at the stunning Al Hamra Golf Club from October 26-29, the Ras Al Khaimah tournament is the penultimate stop on the Road to Oman and one of the last remaining opportunities for players to gain a spot in the all-important top 15 on the season rankings to gain promotion to the European Tour.
Having finally secured his first title in his tenth season as a Tour professional at the Italian Challenge Open by Lyoness in July, the 32-year-old now has his sights set on emulating Smith – whose victory at the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge in his rookie season last year sealed top spot on the Road to Oman Rankings.
The win proved to be a springboard to further success on this year’s European Tour where Smith has already won his first title at the Porsche European Open and risen to 18th in the Race to Dubai with his spot in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November already guaranteed.
“I think that all of these fantastic stories of players that go from nothing to everything very quickly shows you that the Challenge Tour is a great place to be but you want to get off it as soon as possible to progress to the European Tour and everyone wants to be like Jordan Smith,” said Sjoholm who was getting some practice in at the European Tour Performance Institute at Jumeirah Golf Estates ahead of the crucial run in of the Challenge Tour season.
“I could clearly see Jordan was a fantastic golfer but I never dreamed his rise to success would go so quickly. But that’s the beauty of golf and everyone is striving to become the next Jordan Smith.”
Sjoholm experienced three seasons in Europe’s top tie, but dropped back down to the Challenge Tour in 2014.
Sjoholm and his fellow Challenge Tour stars in the soaking up the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge action will be three local amateurs who secured spots in the event’s Pro-Am after claiming the podium positions in the Golden Ball Grand Final at Al Hamra Golf Club.
Over 500 amateurs competed in 20 qualifying events across the region with the winners claiming in spots in the Grand Final where Tower Links Golf Club member Michelle Im took the spoils with a fantastic net 67, while playing partner Sandra Chia from Emirates Golf Club posted a net 72 to take second with Graeme Field from Trump International Golf Club, Dubai.
Jamie Elson won the inaugural Ayla Golf Championship in a tense playoff on Saturday, holing a four-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole to beat fellow Englishman Luke Joy in an exciting finish to the first professional golf event in the country.
Elson, the current MENA Tour Order of Merit leader, eagled the final hole in regulation en route to a closing 68 to set the clubhouse target of a seven-under-par 212 that Joy matched with a 72, birdieing the last after producing a stunning hole-in-one on the 12th.
Both birdied the first extra hole to extend the proceedings, but a wayward drive by Joy opened the door for Elson to secure his breakthrough win on the MENA Tour he first played last year.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre fired a sizzling nine-under 64 to set a new course record, eclipsing a 67 shot by Sweden’s Henric Sturehed in the second round to move into a four-way tie for third on six-under after an action-packed day.
England’s Joe Heraty, who carded a bogey-free 68, Italy’s Rocco Sanjust (67) and Sturehed (73) joined MacIntyre in the group, four clear of the English duo Zane Scotland and Lee Corfield and Sweden’s Fredrik From.
“Quite surprised to win, to be honest. Struggled a bit on the front nine, but made a nice birdie on the ninth to get to level-par for the day. Thereafter, I played solid golf and holed putts when I needed to, to get into the playoff,” said Elson after receiving the winner’s trophy from HE Nasser Sultan Shraideh, Chief Commissioner, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority.
“Playoff could have gone either way, but I hit some great shots and made putts to get the job done, finally,” said the 36-year-old Englishman, eagled the last in regulation, hitting his eight-iron approach from 185 yards to with two feet.
Scotland’s MacIntyre, tied for 15th at the start, produced the round of the tournament to make his professional debut an event to remember.
“I was far off from the field after a disappointing 78 in the opening round and had nothing to lose. Played a bit aggressively and that approach paid off,” said the Scotsman, who eagled the final hole after hitting his nine-iron approach from 168 yards to within nine yards.
“I can always take a lot of confidence out of the last two bogey-free rounds, a lot of positives,” said the 21-year-old, who hails from Oban, a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland.
England’s Todd Clements, the first round joint leader with Joy, closed with a 72 to share the honours with Michael Harradine of Switzerland in the amateur division after both finished on one-over-par 220, well ahead of Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla and Jordan’s Shergo Al Kurdi who tallied matching 13-over for the tournament.
England’s Mark Chamberlain also had something to cheer about as he aced the 179-yard, par-3 16th with an eight-iron for his first hole-in-one since turning professional in 2011 — and the fifth overall — as he finished tied 47th.
The MENA Tour will travel to Kuwait for the Sahara Kuwait Golf Championship to be held from October 16 to 18, the last event on this year’s schedule before the field whittles down for the 72-hole Tour Championship hosted by Al Zorah Golf Club in Ajman from October 23 to 26.