A decorated major champion, one of golf’s most influential powerbrokers and a Ladies European Tour winner have helped ramp up Saudi Arabia’s bid to be known as one of game’s “most dynamic new golf markets”.
By Kent Gray
European Tour boss Keith Pelley has lauded Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans for golf at home and abroad after a series of engagements in Riyadh, saying the kingdom is at the “forefront of helping us to develop the game”.
Pelley has joined four-time major champion and former world No.1 Ernie Els, Ladies European Tour (LET) winner Camilla Lennarth and Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of both the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, at a series of industry events in the Saudi capital.
The three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum saw global leaders, investors and innovators debate the future of global investment across several important sectors, including the golf industry.
Pelley sees great opportunity for the likes of Saudi Arabia in influencing the future direction of golf – both in the Kingdom and internationally.
“Golf Saudi wants to use the game to transform the country and there is no question that Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of helping us to develop the game,” the Canadian said.
“Our game is so much about inclusivity and it’s fantastic that the Saudi Golf Federation shares that vision.”
Al-Sorour joined Els, Pelley and Lennarth in an expert panel discussion.
“This week has been a fantastic showcase for the Kingdom and proof that golf in Saudi really does mean business,” said Al-Sorour, who was instrumental in the staging of the inaugural Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, a European Tour event, this year.
“Not only was this the perfect time to debate the issues in the game today, it was a fantastic opportunity to talk about solutions and the role emerging markets such as Golf Saudi can play in that. This is an exciting time for the sport.”
The panel presentation was followed by a welcome reception and the first ‘Golf Means Business’ Pro-Am held at Nofa Golf Resort outside Riyadh and hosted by His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Former Ryder and Solhiem Cup-winning captains Thomas Bjorn and Catriona Matthew, two-times Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and LET players Carly Booth, Isabella Deilert, Annabel Dimmock, Victoria Fricot, Maha Haddioui and Frida Spang all teed it up.
Lennarth’s team triumphed to claim the inaugural FII International Pro-Am title.
“Just when I thought this week couldn’t get any better, first hearing about the potential new Ladies European Tour event taking place here [Saudi Arabia] in March 2020, to then being crowned inaugural champion at this wonderful new event,” the 31-year-old Swede said.
“The FII International Pro-Am at the Nofa Golf Resort has been fantastic, my experiences in Saudi Arabia continue to get better and better. I’d like to thank His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan for hosting such a memorable occasion and I already can’t wait to come back.”
There has been no official word yet from the LET about the mooted March 2020 stop. However, the 2nd Saudi International powered by SBIA has been confirmed for Jan. 30-Feb.2, after earlier Desert Swing events in Abu Dhabi (Jan. 16-19) and Dubai (Jan. 23-26).