With 282 guests congregating at the Amphitheatre of One & Only Royal Mirage, it was as much a rare occasion for the industry to get together, as it was to recognise the amazing efforts of all involved.
Among the big winners last night were Dubai Golf, who won the prize for ‘Best Golf Course Under Dh500’ for the Greg Norman-designed Almouj Golf in Oman, as well as the ‘Best Golf Course Over Dh500’ for Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club.
Troon Golf also had a great night, winning the ‘Golf Course Maintenance Team of the Year’ for Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, ‘Best F&B Team’ for The Els Club Dubai, ‘Best Teaching Professional’ for Danny Jakubowski of Abu Dhabi Golf Club and the ‘Best Overall Club Experience’ for Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
A delighted Chris May, CEO of Dubai Golf, said: “This is a fantastic night for the industry. We are thankful to Sport360° for not only providing us great reporting on golf throughout the year, but also for an event like the MEGAs.
“We are very happy with the awards. Both were decided by public vote, so that makes it even better. They pay money to play on our courses and our aim is for them to go back with a great experience. These awards show we have managed to do that.”
Mark Chapleski, Area Managing Director and Senior Vice-President, Troon Golf Middle East, said he was proud of the team effort.
“Abu Dhabi Golf Club has been without a General Manager for nearly six months now, and for these men to take things in their own hands and work so hard in these difficult times, I am so proud of them,” said Chapleski.
Welcoming the guests, Didier Brun, Publisher and Deputy CEO, Sport360°, said: “The MEGAs, now in its fourth edition, offers a unique platform to showcase and reward the ambitions and achievements of the golfing industry across the entire region.
“Our objective each year is not only to keep the awards credible but also to continue being innovative to keep pace with the evolution of the industry.”
Several new awards were introduced this year, including ‘Arab Golf initiative of the Year, ‘Golf Digital Platform of the Year’ and the ‘Serviceman of the Year’.
The Arab Golf Initiative of the Year was awarded to MENA Golf Tour, which has established itself as the premier tour of the region.
Rayhan Thomas, who has become the poster boy of MENA Tour after becoming the first amateur and youngest player to win a tournament earlier this year, said: “I think the MENA Tour deserves all the accolades. I must give credit of my achievements to them because they have given us a very strong tour to compete in and get better.”
Living up to its reputation of honouring and recognising the men behind the scenes, the MEGAs
instituted the Serviceman of the Year. Eravathra Parappurath Ummer, who has served Emirates Golf Club for 26 years now, walked away with the inaugural honour.
In spite of the challenging business conditions this year, an impressive 156 submissions were received in the various categories, which was an increase of eight per cent over last year.
The MEGAs was sponsored by Singha Corporation, Dubai Sports City, Hydroturf and One & Only Royal Mirage.
Hanse was in Dubai to have a final look at the golf course, which is expected to open to the public sometime in February next year.
The golf course is ready to play, but the final touches are being given to the futuristic-looking clubhouse.
And Hanse, who designed the Olympic course in Rio as golf made a triumphant return to the Games, said: “The golf course is right where I’d like to see it. I am thrilled with how it is looking. It just fills me with a sense of immense pride at what the team has been able to achieve.
“We started here with a very blank landscape, one that was hemmed in by developments. We had definition for the ground, but almost no definition in the ground. So, to come up with this, I am really proud.”
So, what can you expect at Trump Dubai? It is a par-71 course that extends to 7,229 yards from the tips. The first thing that strikes you is how wide the fairways are, followed by the distinct lack of rough around the greens and fairways. Even though protected by real estate at most places, there is a strong wind that blows at most of the time. The greens are of varying sizes and most of them have strong slopes.
What will golfers find different at Trump Dubai compared to other UAE courses?
“I think one of the things that I have been told is unique to Dubai are the tees. There are no defined Strategic nature of landscape makes Akoya stand out Hanse angles for distinctive course in UAE tee boxes. There are just large areas of grass that flow through and merge right into the fairways. That’s a different look and feel for
the course,” said Hanse.
“I think the native landscape materials that we have used – the trees, the bushes, the grass – bring a real desert feel. Even the landforms are beautifully shaped and inspired by the desert.
“We have tried to give a rustic feel to the golf course. The fairways are wide. There is a reliance on short grass to provide a lot of character around the greens. To hit a recovery shot with the putter around the green is fun for most golfers. I think the key word that we have really focused here is fun.”
Even though the fairways are magnanimous in size, Hanse draws comparison with Augusta National Golf Club course to explain why being wide does not mean it is easy.
“Wide fairways are part of our philosophy. It’s something that we have done on the Olympic golf course as well. We like to give players room to play off the tee, but to score out here, you’ve got to hit much more precise tee shots,” said the man who also redesigned the legendary Blue Monster course at Doral.
“What we tried to do in Rio and what we tried to do here. It is our core belief that angles matter.
“Augusta National is a perfect example of that. It’s wide golf course off the tee, but to score, you’ve got to hit the correct part of the fairway, and then when you hit the greens, you’ve got to be in the proper quarter of the green. So, the level of precision is pretty high for a very wide golf course.”
You can’t help but ask Hanse – what has been the reaction of Mr Donald Trump?
“I haven’t heard much from him. I think he has been pretty busy with some other things!” said Hanse.
“Larry Glick, his Vice-President of Golf Division, was here and I am sure he will give him all the report. I am sure I will get to know soon what he thinks. But I am sure even he will be proud of this.”
Membership is now being offered by Trump Dubai. For information, call +971 4 4289800.
On a day when no other player in the field managed to break 70 in windy conditions, England’s Felicity Johnson shot a bogey-free eight-under par 64 to come out of nowhere and grabbed a two-shot lead after the second round of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.
One-over par 73 after her opening round, the 29-year-old from Birmingham made the most of her red-hot irons as she made eight birdies – four on either side of the golf course – to finish on seven-under par 137, two better than overnight leader, England’s Florentyna Parker (72).
India’s Aditi Ashok, the prodigal 18-year-old who could match a 27-year-old record on the Ladies European Tour with a third consecutive victory, shot a two-under par 70 and kept herself in contention.
Ashok was tied third at four-under par along with Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen (71). If she wins on Saturday, she will equal the record of France’s Marie-Laure de Lorenzi, who won three straight titles in 1989.
Defending champion Shanshan Feng could not make a desired move, even though her 70, along with that of six others, was the second best score of the day. The Chinese world No4, the highest ranked player in the field, was tied 13th at two-under par.
But the story of the day was Johnson. Not having the best of seasons on the Tour, she is currently ranked 54th in the Order of Merit, having made only seven cuts in 12 starts. Her previous best this year was a tied second finish in New Zealand, right at the beginning of the season.
However, the two-time winner on the LET could feel her form coming back, especially with a 66 during the final stage of the LPGA Tour Qualifying School last week.
On Friday though, she just could do no wrong.
“I hit a lot of really close iron shots. I holed out really well with my putts but I had probably had seven birdie putts within four feet, so that always makes the game a little bit easier,” said Johnson.
“All the ones I hit close, I converted, so just 24 putts. Hitting a lot of good iron shots, you’re going to have a good score.”
Johnson, who started with four birdies in her first five holes, was happy to be in the position she was in, hoping to win her first title since the 2011 Lacoste Ladies Open de France.
“It’s only a three-round event, so you try to put yourself in a good position heading into the final day. I think I did that pretty well today,” she added.
Parker made three birdies and three bogeys in her round of 72, and said she is expecting nothing less than a victory.
The 27-year-old has her mother, Gina, is on her bag this week, and that would be a good omen as the Englishwoman’s last win in 2014 Italian Open came with the same ‘caddie’.
“She has no idea about golf. In fact, I tell her where to stand. That’s what we talk about, where to stand for the next shot and not be in anyone’s way. We just talk about non-golf things,” said Parker, who is fourth in the Order of Merit this year without any win.
“The only thing I haven’t done this year is win and that’s all I’m going to do tomorrow. And I’m just going to go for it. That’s what I’ve got to do. Even if I finish second or third, I’m not really interested.”