Saudi Arabia is to stage back-to-back Ladies European Tour events worth $1.5 million in November after golf was given the green light to lead the kingdom on its road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic on the international sports stage.
In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al Sorour revealed the details of the double-header at Royal Greens Golf Club in King Abdullah Economic City, where Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell have won the Saudi International on the European Tour over the past two seasons.
The $1m Aramco Saudi Ladies International, which was originally due to take place in March, has now been rescheduled for 12-15 November, with the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International, in which professionals will join forces with amateurs, then running from 17-19 November.
The events, which will be landmark moments for women’s sport in Saudi Arabia, will take place in a “bio-secure bubble” similar to those used for both the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and AIG Women’s Open as the LET came out of lockdown in August.
“We are looking forward to staging these two events,” said Al Sorour, the man who has enticed players such as Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed to tee up in the first two stagings of the men’s Saudi International. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is really keen to bring the country back to some form of of normalcy. We are going to try to kick-start that by staging an international sports event and we cannot ask for a better opportunity than having women in Saudi Arabia to represent golf and represent women’s rights and women’s freedom. That is something we are striving for.
“We are trying to push in all different sections in sport and in the economy to try to bring back some sort of normalcy, so it is really important to us to be staging the Araco Ladies International presented by the Public Investment Fund.
“We are keen to support the Ladies European Tour and we had a conversation with their CEO, Alexandra Armas, and we wanted to offset some of the losses they have been incurring this season due to the pandemic.
“That’s one of our main goals, to give unlimited support to the Ladies European Tour and the European Tour. The second tournament is also a key test. It’s an idea we have been looking at and we will share more information about the format later.”
The Saudi Ladies International will carry the third biggest prize fund on the 2020 LET schedule after the Women’s Open and Ladies Scottish Open, while the Saudi Ladies Team International will boast a prize pot that is more than double that for most regular events on the circuit.
“This type of commitment to women’s golf is really amazing to see at this time,” said Welsh player Amy Boulden, who recently landed her maiden LET win in last month’s Swiss Open. “It’s given players another massive week to look forward to competing in and allows us to take the game we love to a new country.”
In her role as a Saudi Golf ambassador, Boulden was at Royal Greens in February during the men’s event won by McDowell. “To throw their weight behind two events in one week is a really significant gesture from a country I know is passionate about growing golf,” she added.
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