Steven Brown claims win at Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge Pro-Am

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Off the tee: Brown.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority Media Team, skippered by England’s Steven Brown, produced a masterful display to seal a comprehensive six-shot victory in this week’s Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge Pro-Am.

Marshalled superbly round the Al Hamra Golf Club course by Brown – who sits a lofty eighth in the European Challenge Tour’s Race to Oman rankings – the RAKTDA Media quartet finished a collective 28-under par, six shots clear of nearest challengers the AGMC BMW 1 Team skippered by Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen, the runaway Race to Oman leader.

With the RAKTDA Media Team comprising Andy Mossack, a BBC journalist, Colin Baxter, Managing Director of Hydroturf, and Barry King, of Action Global Communications, Brown believes Pro-Am victory in the penultimate round of this year’s European Challenge Tour leaves him well-placed to build on five top-10 finishes in 21 Challenge Tour outings this year.

“The guys were very steady all the way round – they were a pleasure to play with,” said the Englishman, who heads into the Ras Al Khaimah tournament on the back of consecutive top-20 finishes in China.

“The relaxed atmosphere took all the pressure off and it was really good to get a competitive outing on the Al Hamra course ahead of the tournament; hopefully the Pro-Am experience converts into a winning formula for tournament week,” added Brown, ranked 293 in the word.

With 25 four-person teams contesting the Pro-Am, Haitham Mattar, CEO of RAKTDA, the organiser of this week’s Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge, hailed the warm-up tournament a “magnificent success”.

“The Pro-Am was a great way to start tournament week and a magnificent success all round,” said Mattar. “The attention now rightly moves to the Challenge Tour stars vying for glory in the second annual Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge and I’m sure the drama will only intensify as we progress into the final two days over the weekend. We are very excited to see which emerging star shines brightest come the close of play on Saturday afternoon.”

This year’s Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge will be a true family affair. Alongside the golfing action, the tournament’s Fan Village will feature children’s activities, music, food trucks and a drinks garden, open from 4pm to 10pm from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 of October.

UAE residents making the trip to catch the stars in action can benefit from a special offer at the stunning Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. Located right next to Al Hamra Golf Club, the Waldorf Astoria is offering special rates throughout the tournament week.

The Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge has attracted a marquee line-up of sponsors for its second edition including Emirates Airline, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Group, Al Hamra Golf Club, RAKEZ, AGMC and Hunt & Harris. For more information on the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge and The Road to Oman 2017 visit www.europeantour.com/challengetour.

For more information on hotel offers and the fan village visit: www.rasalkhaimah.ae.

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Swedes Amanda Linner and Julia Engstrom join Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open field as Annika Sorenstam’s wildcard picks

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Annika Sorenstam of Sweden hosting a clinic at FBMLO last year.

There is only one week to go until the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open (FBMLO) gets underway at the iconic Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi.

Held for the second year under the patronage of the Mother of the Nation, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, this year’s four-day tournament will take place from next Wednesday November 1 — Saturday November 4.

This year’s tournament has already attracted a stellar line-up and it has now been confirmed that two Swedish protégées are set to join the player roster as Annika Sörenstam’s wildcard picks. Teenagers Amanda Linnér and Julia Engström have both been selected to play and will be hoping to make their own respective break-outs during the four-day tournament.

Linnér recently prevailed at the 2017 ANNIKA Invitational Europe after birdieing the final hole to force a dramatic play-off conclusion.

She is currently ranked 4th in the amateur European Golf Rankings and 19th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, and is regarded as one of the top young players in the world.

Engström made her Ladies European Tour debut when she was only 13 years old at the 2014 Helsingborg Open. At the age of 15, she became the youngest ever winner of the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship and is currently ranked 6th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and competed for Europe in the 2017 PING Junior Solheim Cup alongside Linnér.

Sörenstam believes it will be an incredible experience for the two youngsters, saying: “Amanda and Julia have played well in recent months.  I am thrilled that they will have the opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi to compete in this wonderful LET event, which I was delighted to help launch last year.

“The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open will be a very special week for everyone and I look forward to seeing how Amanda and Julia perform against the top professionals in Europe.  I wish them along with all the players the very best of luck.”

This year’s tournament is focused on family and community, with a range of fun activities, food trucks and entertainment as well as world-class golf, making it a perfect day out for all the family, and a great opportunity for youngsters to get into golf and other sports.

Golfing fun includes a bespoke crazy golf course, chipping challenge, the region’s first-ever ‘paint golf’, and introductory beginners’ sessions, with other sports covered by the FIFA Club World Cup fan zone, and sessions from Abu Dhabi Cricket, and Troon Fit.

Entry is free for all and the organisers hope that friends and families will be encouraged to attend, as part of their efforts to grow the game of golf in the UAE, especially amongst females, and increasing participation in sport, health and fitness across the board.

“This will be my first time playing golf in Abu Dhabi and I’ve heard wonderful things about last year’s tournament,” said Linnér. “I hope I can repay Annika’s faith in me and deliver for all those who come along to this year’s tournament, particularly my family, and encourage more people to get involved.”

Engström added: “It was such an incredible surprise when I heard that Annika had picked me to be part of this year’s FBMLO. I come from a golfing family – and my family’s support has always been extremely important. My father has a four handicap and my mother also plays, so that’s where I get my love of the game from and my competitive attitude.”

Over the four-day period, 126 players will compete for a total prize purse of $550,000. The opening two days will see the first rounds taking place before the cut at the end of the second day, where the player count is halved.

The event is free to attend and ticket registration and more information is available at www.FBMLadiesOpen.com. Visitors can also register on the gate.

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Chase Koepka is one to watch as Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge all set to tee off at Al Hamra Golf Club

Denzil Pinto 24/10/2017
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Last year's winner, Jordan Smith.

As the next batch of up-and-coming and experienced stars descend on the UAE for the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge, one man who knows the course at Al Hamra Golf Club better than most is Andrew Matthews.

As head of golf at the club, he’s been putting the final touches to the stunning 18-hole Peter Harradine-designed course that will see a mix of some of the sport’s best players do battle over the next four days.

Among the 105 golfers to tee off tomorrow include emerging global talents, MENA Tour hopefuls, the UAE’s best professional and amateur players as well as multiple European Tour winners – Tano Goya, Sweden’s Mikael Lundberg and 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship winner Michael Hoey.

They will all be aiming to follow in the footsteps of Jordan Smith, who won last year and recorded his first triumph on the big stage at the Porsche European Tour in July.

Considering it’s the penultimate event of the European Challenge Tour ahead of next weekend’s finale in Oman, the European Tour veterans have their work cut out with a host of in-form Challenge Tour players seeking to break into the continent’s elite field next season.

Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen finds himself at the top of the rankings with a healthy 40,000-plus point lead but the 27-year-old faces a stern task in getting his second win of the season with the top 10 players competing in the Emirate.

Matthews feels the strong field will produce a closely-fought competition on the greens but their cause will not be helped with some adjustments, forcing players to rethink their strategies on some holes.

“The players will notice this year that what is different to last is that the rough is thicker,” he said.

“We have thickened up the rough on the request of the European Tour themselves to try and make it a little bit tougher.

“We have also added a new tee box on hole 16. We have added 28 yards of length, which really brings the bunker out on the left hand side this year.

“Whereas last year, the players were able to knock it over the bunker and into a very short shot into the greens, this year it will be a little more tricky.”

Matthews gave a strong hint when suggesting anyone who wants to go far would need to sharpen up on their tee-shots.

“The driver is a fairly wide space for the guys but if they do get in the rough, they will struggle,” he said.

“The longer hitters are going to benefit and really should be working on their driver shots.

“The greens are generous and reasonably flat. As long as they hit those fairways, they have a good chance to score well. It is the drivers they should be working on this week.”

While those changes to the course will certainly make things interesting for the spectators, Matthews expects the golfers to raise their game over the four rounds.

“It will be even more interesting this week,” he said.

“It’s the penultimate event and everyone’s trying to get into the final event in Oman.

“Ultimately, they are trying to get into the top 15 in the Order of Merit to win a spot on the European Tour. Our event sits nicely for that and I think it will be a good fight for the spots.”

Chase Koepka.

Chase Koepka.

Matthews feels American Chase Koepka, younger brother of US Open champion Brooks, who is sixth in the rankings, will be the player to watch.

Matthews said: “I think he is a key one. He’s a big hitter and reasonably straight and I think he’s the one to look out for.”

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