x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dream is a reality now for Spencer

Entrepreneur talks of the 'wow' factor. Race to Dubai means focus will be on the UAE when 2009 season draws to a close.

A view from behind the green on the par four, 10th hole of the Ailsa Course at Turnberry, owned by Leisurecorp and the venue for the 2009 Open Championship in Scotland.
A view from behind the green on the par four, 10th hole of the Ailsa Course at Turnberry, owned by Leisurecorp and the venue for the 2009 Open Championship in Scotland.

DUBAI // "Dreams are the blueprint of reality," is a favourite catchphrase of David Spencer, but the ambitious entrepreneur admitted to going beyond his wildest fantasies in what he and his colleagues at Leisurecorp have achieved over the last 12 months.

Spencer enthused about an "incredible trilogy" of showpiece tournaments which are about to get under way and believed that golf enthusiasts in the country should get shivers down their spines when they realise the global prominence the region has earned. Spencer, 47, is the chief executive of the golfing arm of Leisurecorp, a company set up in 2006 by Dubai World with a mandate to "identify, acquire and develop sports and leisure related investments around the world".

Nobody can accuse him and his team of falling short in carrying out that brief. The eagerly-anticipated Race to Dubai, which begins in Shanghai in November and will conclude with the Dubai World Championship, the flagship event of Leisurecorp. But the company did not stop there. They backed up that massive incursion into the domain of professional golf with an audacious £55million (Dh374m) swoop for the famous Scottish course of Turnberry which will host the British Open Championship in July.

They already own Pearl Valley Estates near Cape Town where the South African Open will be staged in December. Those three events form Spencer's trilogy, and when the European Tour move their headquarters to the Jumeirah Golf Estates next year the Leisurecorp marketing men will be seeking an adjective to back up the next leg of their impressive quadruple. Spencer's office is close to the Greg Norman-designed Earth course, which will stage the Dubai World Championship, where the winner will earn a staggering $2m (Dh7.3m) and a substantial share of a further order of merit pool of $10m (Dh36m).

"How all of this has fallen into place is amazing," he said. "I would like to say it is the product of some strategic master plan but it has all just fit into place, one thing after another, and we are all delighted and so proud. "If somebody had told me in 2001 in my early days in the UAE that the global focus of golf was going to spin around and be on Dubai in 2009, I wouldn't have believed it. "It [the tour] is international, fairly young and I suppose it is the underdog. The same could be said for us.

"This was not a deal that was struck over a cappuccino. This was an agreement that was well structured by them and well thought through by us. It has been documented as to what our obligations are to the European Tour and we intend to fulfil those." The acquisition of Turnberry took eight months to complete. "That gave us the oldest event in golf to go with the second oldest and in the Race to Dubai we have the newest," added Spencer.

"When the whole world is watching next July and that first ball is struck from the first tee at Turnberry, everybody is going to witness one of the greatest sporting events on the calendar being played on a Dubai asset. We should all have goose bumps and say wow." wjohnson@thenational.ae