It’s official. Paige Spiranac is returning to Dubai but this time it won’t be to tee it up in a third Omega Dubai Ladies “Classic” in December. Instead, golf’s undisputed social media queen will take centre stage on the first tee at Emirates Golf Club as the official starter at the 29th Omega Dubai Desert Classic from Jan. 25-28.
The 24-year-old American confirmed the news, first revealed by Golf Digest Middle East last month, in this short video overnight.
Spiranac’s appointment is another shrewd promotional curve-ball from Tournament Director David Spencer, designed to keep the Desert Classic front an centre as one of the European Tour’s preeminent events. Reigning U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who has just announced new bride Angela Adkins is expecting the couple’s first child in March, is already confirmed to defend the famed dallah (Arabic Coffee Pot) on the Majlis while Golf Digest Middle East exclusively revealed PGA Tour cult hero Pat Perez is set to headline the $3million event.
Spiranac made her professional debut, and created a global media storm, at the 2015 Dubai Ladies Masters courtesy of a controversial sponsors’ invite.
When the Instagram superstar returned to Dubai last December, she tearfully admitted to an on-going struggle with depression and anxiety due to cyber bullying in the wake of her rounds of 77-79 the previous year.
She had toyed with quitting the game after “the hardest experience of my life” but felt compelled to fight on and speak out given concerning teen suicide rates. “Hopefully I can save someone’s life, I think that’s so much more important than if I make the cut or miss the cut,” she said at the time.
Sadly, Spiranac continued to harassed by faceless trolls after carding rounds of 77 and 80 on the Majlis layout to finish 13 over par, nine shots shy of the cut which fell at +4, last year.
Spencer took plenty of heat when he first invited Spiranac to Dubai and expects fall-out from the lastest decision. But he remains unapologetic, insisting Spiranac had significantly raised the profile of the Dubai Ladies Masters and will do the same for the men’s event in her ambassadorial role.
He reveals why in this piece which appears as part of a special “9 for 9” feature in out 100th issue.
Meanwhile, ticket prices for the Desert Classic have been released. Daily tickets for the four-day main competition are priced at AED 175. A season pass, which provides access all week, is available for AED 500. Children aged 16 and under will be allowed free entry to the course if they are accompanied by an adult who is holding a valid ticket for the day.