Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 7 April 2020

Saudi Arabia reveal ambitious plans to host more high-profile golf events

After the second Saudi International ended on Sunday, and with a Ladies European Tour event taking place next month, new projects are being lined-up for the kingdom

Irish golfer Graeme McDowell won the Saudi International by two shots on Sunday. AP
Irish golfer Graeme McDowell won the Saudi International by two shots on Sunday. AP

Saudi Arabia has expressed an interest in hosting a PGA Tour event in future, while a lead figure in golf in the country said on Monday the kingdom could announce a second European Tour stop “very soon”.

Saudi is fast emerging as a significant player in the sport, with the second Saudi International – a European Tour event – concluding on Sunday in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) just north of Jeddah, with Graeme McDowell as its champion.

Next month, the Ladies European Tour will stage a tournament there for the first time. The Saudi Ladies Championship, which runs from March 19-22, takes place at the same Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. It carries a prize fund of $1 million (Dh3.67m).

Speaking on Monday at the inaugural Golf Saudi Summit in KAEC, Majed Al Sorour, chief executive officer of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, discussed the Kingdom’s ambitious plans for the game, which includes more high-profile events and the construction of up to 13 golf courses.

Asked initially about bringing an Asian Tour event to Saudi, Al Sorour said: “We have the CEO of the Asian Tour [Cho Minn Thant] here and we’re going to sit down together to have something planned on that.

“We would love to have the Asian Tour; we’re part of Asia, then they allow us to be part of the bigger European [Tour]. But it was easy for us to go straight to the European Tour because it’s already on the map and we thought this was a good idea to start something.

“But we’re not going to stop with one. We’re in communication with the Asian Tour, we’re in communication with the European Tour to have a second. I cannot really announce it yet, but I think we will have another one announced very soon.

“We have the Ladies European Tour and, as you know, they merged with the LPGA [Tour], so hopefully we get to the point where we have a LPGA.

“And, of course, we’d love to have a PGA Tour event. One-and-a-half-years ago I sat with Ty [Votaw, PGA Tour executive vice president] and had a great conversation on having an idea of putting a PGA Tour event in Saudi Arabia.

“One of the things we also want to discuss with him is a World Cup [of Golf] and how we’re going to do that in Saudi Arabia if that’s possible.”

In line with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030, Golf Saudi has committed to five key developmental pillars: access and infrastructure, events, national team and academies, mass participation and tourism. They aim to have 13,000-27,000 registered golfers in the kingdom within the next decade.

Majed Al Sorour, chief executive officer of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said he is in communication with the Asian Tour about staging an event in the kingdom.
Majed Al Sorour, chief executive officer of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said he is in communication with the Asian Tour about staging an event in the kingdom.

Al Sorour said that, while they have aspirations of staging more professional golf events in Saudi, the infrastructure needs to be in place to host them.

“We need to have a better plan,” he said. “The better plan is when we start building the next championship course in two or three years’ time, then we can have other exciting tournaments.”

On a possible collaboration with the Mena Tour, the UAE-founded developmental circuit, Al Sorour said: “We haven’t really thought about Mena Tour very much, but we should actually think about it.

“We’ve been approached by the Mena Tour executives – they didn’t approach us at Golf Saudi, but they approached Royal Greens as an idea to do it together with them. But the Royal Greens have to come back to us. We don’t mind it. It’s just the timing.”

Updated: February 3, 2020 10:00 PM

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