Ivan Khodabakhsh backs golf in DUBAi to get Paige Spiranac

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Support: Ivan Khodabakhsh (r) and Mohamed Juma Buamaim.

Ivan Khodabakhsh, the chief executive officer of the Ladies European Tour, has backed the decision of ‘golf in DUBAi’, organisers of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, to give an invite to American internet sensation Paige Spiranac.

The 22-year-old Spiranac, who recently turned professional after a decent college career in the US, is known more for her skills with the social media than golf. Dubai Ladies Masters was her debut in a pro tournament and she missed the cut after rounds of 77 and 79.

There has been a bit of a debate over the invitation to her, with some people feeling a Tour player or some top amateurs would have been more deserving candidate.

But Khodabakhsh, while releasing the LET calendar for the 2016 season, said: “It’s a professional tournament. That means we need to be also entertaining.

– DUBAI: Shanshan Feng takes five-shot lead

– #360view: It was right to invite Paige Spiranac
– Joy of Golf: Slow play fast becoming a big issue
– VIDEO: The golf industry's $113m wealth in Dubai

“We want to focus on competitive sport but entertainment is a big part of this, too. Whatever brings more attention, not just to this tournament, but to women’s golf, is fine with us.

“People who have not been close to women’s golf look at it and say, ‘wow, this is actually cool, I want to be a part of it’. It’s good for the game.

“So she has had a great impact here, but she has had a great impact internationally. We have broadcasters calling us up wanting to see more. That’s only good for everybody.”

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, CEO of ‘golf in DUBAi’, added: “I think for us, she made a big impact, especially in the United States. This is why we brought her.

“She didn’t make the cut, but I did not expect her to make the cut because it’s her first tournament, and there was so much pressure on her.

“But I’m very happy to have her and we’ll have her back again if she wants to come back.”

Dubai Ladies Masters remains the season-ending championship in 2016 as well, and will be played December 7-10 next year.

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Joy's Diary: Simon all smiles and brilliant digital board

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Happy times: Ashleigh Simon (l) and David Buhai.

South African player Ashleigh Simon signed off her final round with a disappointing double bogey seven on the par-5 18thhole, and yet walked off the golf course with the biggest smile on Friday…and a sparkling diamond ring in her finger!

Romance was in the air during the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on Friday and David Buhai, Simon’s boyfriend for nine years and caddie for six, dropped down on his knees and popped the question as soon as his “boss” finished on the 18th.

Simon, who was playing in the second group of the day, was unaware of the whole situation, but Buhai managed to involve several Ladies European Tour staff members and the organisers ‘golf in DUBAi’.

– DUBAI: Shanshan Feng takes five-shot lead
– #360view: It was right to invite Paige Spiranac
– Joy of Golf: Slow play fast becoming a big issue
– VIDEO: The golf industry’s $113m wealth in Dubai

So, as soon as she finished the round, almost 50 odd people appeared on the green, including the Sky Sports camera team. Congratulatory message flashed on the giant screen and flower bouquets were handed over to the pair.

An overwhelmed Buhai said: “Always wanted it to be in Dubai, the season finale, and I knew she wouldn’t expect it. I got my sister to make up the ring and it’s been a process trying to hide it ever since getting here.

“So today, it was in the bag obviously and I was pretty nervous because she kept going into the bag. I was like, this is my bag, what do you need out of it. She was starting to give me a strange few looks.
“But yeah, somehow managed to hide it, and thanks to the Tour, because obviously they have done a lot of work behind the scenes in keeping it hush.”

Simon said she never suspected anything.

“I saw all these people behind the green on 18 and I’m thinking someone behind us must be having a really good round today. Yeah, I really didn’t expect that at all,” said the two-time LET winner.

It was the third on-course proposal in professional golf tours this year. Mark Hubbard on the PGA Tour was the first to do so during the AT&T Pro-Am at the stunning Pebble Beach in February, while Denmark’s Andreas Harto chose the crowded 16thhole of ‘Made in Denmark’ tournament in August to propose to his girlfriend.

Digital scoreboard

The new digital leaderboard put up at the media centre for the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters was just brilliant.

It was made up of two separate giant LED panels, and with the field cut down over the last two days, one part of it functioned as a scoreboard, and the other as a TV screen.

The resolution of the screen was very good, and the numbers, although smaller than the tradition ones used in manual leaderboards, was of the correct size and visible from most part of the building.

It greatly reduces the chances of errors and miscommunication between the team of college kids who used to be volunteering along with the scoring system providers, and the updation is quicker as the interface is linked straight to the scoring feed that also goes into the official website.

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Joy's Diary: Broberg gives Lennarth a different perspective

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Partners: Camilla Lennarth and Kistoffer Broberg.

Sweden’s Kistoffer Broberg, winner of the the BMW Masters in Shanghai on the men’s European Tour last month, is part of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters this year – obviously, not as a player, but as caddie for girlfriend Camilla Lennarth.

– DUBAI: Shanshan Feng takes five-shot lead
– #360view: It was right to invite Paige Spiranac
– Joy of Golf: Slow play fast becoming a big issue
– VIDEO: The golf industry’s $113m wealth in Dubai

World No66 Broberg, who finished 14th in the Race to Dubai last season, felt that apart from giving him an opportunity to be close to Lennarth, the duty on her bag will also give him a slight edge when he returns on the Majlis course next year for the Dubai Desert Classic.

“It does give me a slightly different perspective of the golf course. I think it will help me a little bit in finding the lines and see how the greens behave,” said Broberg after Lennarth finished her third round with a 73 to lie even-par for the tournament.

This is the third time Broberg is on the bag for Lennarth, but he is still not convinced if he is the right caddie for his partner.

“It is a good experience and I like it, but I think a proper caddie would be better for her,” he added. “The thing is, it is pretty hard to get it right with the wind on this course.”

And because he himself is such a good player, Broberg admits he sees shots differently to Lennarth at times. “We do talk about the shots that she wants to hit. I may give her some tips around the greens, but I mostly let her do her own thing.”

Pink Friday

The Dubai Ladies Masters’ Pink Friday campaign was a huge success.

It has become an annual ritual in the season-ending tournament to create breast cancer and raise money for charities related to the illness.

Almost every player in the field had some form of pink on her, while the ‘golf in DUBAi’ and Ladies European Tour staff were wearing pink uniforms. It wasn’t just restricted to the clothing, either. Even the pin flags on each hole were pink, and so were the tee markers.

Tournament visitors were urged to make donations in the collection boxes placed at various points of the golf course, with all proceeds going to Al Jalila Foundation, the UAE’s first independent multi-disciplinary medical research centre.

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