The European Tour is fully committed to Qatar and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters as it seeks to grow the game further in the country and the region, its Chief Operating Officer Keith Waters said yesterday.
The assurance came ahead of the prestigious Commercial Bank Qatar Masters beginning at the Doha Golf Club tomorrow in the backdrop of the ongoing illegal blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain with active support from Egypt.
“The Qatar Masters has played an important role in the region for 20 years as far as raising the profile of golf is concerned. We have had an excellent partnership and we look forward to that continuing for several more years,” Waters said at the traditional curtain-raising press conference ahead of the 21st edition of the prestigious event.
“On behalf of the European Tour I wish to thank the Qatar Golf Association, the Commercial Bank of Qatar and the Qatar Olympic Committee for their support. In the next few years the European Tour will seek to further increase our involvement with Qatar.”
Waters added that with a new golf course coming up in Qatar the popularity of the game will grow further.
“The European Tour also hopes that with a new golf course (The Education City Golf Club) coming up in Qatar the game will get a further boost as it will allow more Qataris to get involved and develop their skills. Maybe we can have a tournament on the new course in the future.”
He also said that the European Tour was also looking to add new events in the region.
“With the addition of Oman, we now have five European Tour events being played in the Middle East, which highlights the importance of the region and for golf in general. It has a superb climate, fantastic golf courses, and we are able to travel there when it’s difficult to play golf in Europe due to the weather. It has really been a great addition to the Tour and contributed considerably to our ongoing success.”
Waters said more events have been planned for the region in the near future.
“We are looking at lots of different countries in Middle East generally and I think in the next few years, three or four more countries will have a golf tournament. I think the fact that golf is now part of the Olympics will lead to that. It will be very interesting. You will be surprised to see how many more countries are having golf tournaments.”
Doha Golf Club General Manager Gary McGlinchey said the inclusion of Oman on the European Tour’s main calendar was a strategic decision to help golfers as well as the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters tide over the Gulf crisis.
Earlier the tournament was part of the three-week ‘Gulf Swing which included tournaments in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, making it easier for players to plan their schedule. But with the ongoing blockade it would have been logistically difficult for players to travel to Qatar from the UAE because of the air travel restrictions.
“Now with Qatar following the tournament in Oman, players can easily fly down to Doha and play two tournaments in two weeks,” McGlinchey said.
Oman had a Challenge Tour event in the past but it was upgraded to an elite European Tour event precisely for this purpose, McGlinchey said.
Qatar Golf Association President Hassan al-Naimi also dismissed suggestions that the political crisis has had an impact on the tournament.
“In one word the answer is ‘no’. On the contrary we have more players participating in the tournament this year. Last year there were only 120 players. This time we have 138. In fact, we had to decline entry to several players because the field was already congested,” he said.
Commercial Bank of Qatar’s Chief Marketing Officer Hussein al-Abdulla added the tournament was part of Qatar’s National Vision 2030.
“Sport is a very vital aspect of our National Vision 2030 and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is a key element of that. Over the years it has become a very important and prestigious part of Qatar’s sporting calendar,” said al-Abdulla.
“Over the next few years we will be aiming to develop it further,” he added.
Local and regional players join Europe’s best
By Sports Reporter/Doha
A strong representation of local and regional talent will mix with the stars of the European Tour as the $1.75mn Commercial Bank Qatar Masters tees off tomorrow at Doha Golf Club.
The field consist of 138 players including sponsor invites to five local and regional players; Ali al-Shahrani (Qatar), Ali Saleh al-Kaabi (Qatar), Shergo al-Kurdi (Jordan), Ahmed Marjan (Morocco), Josh White (England) and Ahmed Baig (Pakistan).
Al-Sahrani has played five times in the tournament and al-Kaabi also five times with their collective best score of 148, 4 over par on the challenging Peter Harradine designed golf course. Josh White (England), from the MENA Golf Tour, gained his invite spot by winning the recent Qatar Open (Professional Division) with scores of 70, 73 and 70.
Ahmed Baig (Pakistan) won the Qatar Open (Amateur Division), with a 54 hole total of three under par, 213. The 19 year old will also represent Pakistan at the 11th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final to be held at the Laguna Lang Co Golf Club in Danang, Vietnam, next month.
The 72 hole tournament has a cut to the leading 65 professionals and ties after 36 holes with the final rounds being played on Saturday and Sunday.
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