Saadiyat Beach Golf Club will play host to the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open this November as the Ladies European Tour (LET) comes to Abu Dhabi for the first time.
Some of the very best professionals from the women’s game will grace the stunning Gary Player-designed course, with the field limited to 126 players for the tournament to be played November 2-5.
The latest addition to the calendar is the 21st stop on the 2016 LET schedule and will be the second stop from this year in the UAE, with the tournament joining the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, traditionally the season-ending championship since 2006.
The tournament will boast a prize fund of $550,000 (Dh2.02m) and will be organised by the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy (FBMA) with support from the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC).
“We’re thrilled to be coming to Abu Dhabi in 2016,” LET CEO Ivan Khodabakhsh said at the launch of the tournament, which will take up a key position in the LET schedule.
“Abu Dhabi’s world-class portfolio of sporting events made it an obvious destination to bring something a little different, in the shape of our LET product. We can assure our stakeholders that the tournament will showcase the venue and destination to a worldwide audience.”
One of the professionals on show in November will be Norway’s Caroline Martens, who is currently 60th on the LET Order of Merit after four events.
“We’ve been wanting to play a tournament in Abu Dhabi for some time. The golf course will be one of the best we play all season and I know my fellow professionals will love the experience,” said the 29-year-old.
“We already take advantage of visiting Abu Dhabi whenever we can for the perfect climate and training facilities, now to have a tournament to play for as well is so exciting and I can’t wait for November.”
The new event is being held under the patronage of Her High- ness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak – President of the General Women’s Union, CEO of the Family Development Foundation and President of the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood.
Alongside the tournament, the FBMA and ADSC also want to use the launch as a drive to get more Emirati women playing the sport.
“Hosting this new event is part of our commitment to encourage Emirati women to participate in all aspects of sport through sport education, training and competition,” said FBMA board member, Dr Mai Al Jaber.
“Alongside the world’s leading professionals playing a tourna- ment, a full schedule of community engagement activities will make this one of the most unique golf events in the UAE calendar.”
ADSC’s Aref Al Awani added: “The UAE leads the way in the advancement of the crucial role that women play in our society and this event will be a celebration of that. We sup- port promoting the women’s game and developing future generations of UAE sporting stars.”
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.