Amateur golfer wins national tourney, qualifies for Saudi International

Faisal Salhab goes up and down on the 18th hole on his way to a birdie during the Saudi Open final round. (Photo by  Noel A. Alipoyo)
Updated 02 December 2019

Amateur golfer wins national tourney, qualifies for Saudi International

  • Faisal Salhab and English pro Jamie Elson to make debut at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club

JEDDAH: Saudi amateur golfer Faisal Salhab played No. 18 at 4 under for a 54-hole tournament as he stormed to a six-stroke victory in the 2019 Saudi Open on Saturday, qualifying for next year’s Saudi International — a European Tour event that will feature some of the biggest names in world golf.

He will be joined in the tournament, to be held from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) by English professional division winner Jamie Elson, who closed with a 1-under 71 for a three-day total of 210 on Saturday ahead of the Moroccan pair Ahmed Marjan and Ayoub Id Omar.

Saudi Golf Federation Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan attended the prize-giving ceremony and awarded trophies to Salhab and Elson.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka will headline the star-studded field vying for a total prize fund of $3.5 million.

Also confirmed to play are former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia, as well as reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and 2016 Open winner Henrik Stenson.

Salhab, a 23-year-old engineering student at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, could give the likes of Johnson a run for their money given his prodigious length off the tee.

In the first round on Thursday, Salhab tamed the 7,330 yard layout with a 3-under 69, capping his rousing start when his up-and-down from the bunker on 18 landed four feet from the cup, and making the putt for a birdie.

Amateur division winner Faisal Salhab receives his trophy from Yasir Al-Rumayyan. (Photo by 
Noel A. Alipoyo)

Salhab played even better on Friday. He overshot the green to the right with his driver but holed his wedge for an eagle two that enabled him to temper an otherwise wild round of 74.

He again birdied 18 on the final day for a closing 71 and a 214 total, to the delight of the gallery, including his father, who Salhab said had always pushed him to the next level.

“This is my biggest individual victory,” said Salhab, who will travel to Dubai this week for a training camp with the rest of the Saudi national team, including 2018 Saudi Open winner Saud Al-Sharif.

The team is preparing for the Pan Arab Golf Championship from Dec. 9 to 15 in Morocco.

Salhab had missed the chance to join it for the inaugural Saudi International early this year because of his studies.

With his golf schedule now “back on track,” Salhab, whose family of seven all play golf, is looking to at least make the cut for next year’s Saudi International.

“I’m excited. I hope to play well, enjoy myself, and try to get the ball in the hole,” he told Arab News.

Elson said he was particularly thrilled to be joining some of the world’s best players in KAEC come January.

“I am incredibly happy, I started with my best round on the first day and everything came together so well for me. I hope to take my performance one step further once the Saudi International starts in January and continue my recent good run of form,” he said.

Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

Updated 19 February 2020

Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

  • Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands

ALULA: More than 260 athletes from around the world took part in the recent EcoTrail AlUla, a multi-track running race through the dramatic landscapes of AlUla in Saudi Arabia’s northwest.
Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands. The race was staged as part of the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival, organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla to promote the historic site as an exceptional tourist destination for heritage, arts, culture and sports.

Events took place on three different courses — an 83 km track, followed by a 45 km and a 10 km track — with international athletes taking part in each of the races.

In the 10 km course, 139 contestants took part in the competition, with 125 managing to complete the run. Saudi runner Mohammed Madkhali won first place, while Yemeni runner Fares Aman Aldin came in second and another Saudi runner, Meshari Almuhanna, finished third.

In the women’s category, US runner Meredith Byrne won first place, Saudi runner Sarah Abdullatif came in second, and British runner Maureen McConnell finished third.

Ninety athletes took part in the 45 km race, with 85 finishing. Saudi runner Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi came in first, with Australian Matthew Sudich second and French runner Nicholas Mordelet in third.

In the women’s category, Dutch runner Floortje Rawee came in first, followed by Italian Alessandra Grassi in second and American Natasha Turak third.

The 83 km race featured 37 athletes with only 17 finishing. In the men’s category, US runner Michael Wardian finished first, followed by Pierre Breuer from Belgium in second and Malaysia’s Soonseng Ong third.

In the women’s category, Amy Sproston from the US ranked first, with Ruth Theresia from Indonesia second and American Rachel Bessette third.

EcoTrail AlUla attracted athletes from around the world, most notably the US, UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Jordan, Oman, Peru, Poland and Indonesia.

The one-day trail gave visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with AlUla and its distinctive natural, cultural, architectural and historical monuments. The trail is an eye-catching destination for running enthusiasts and jogging clubs, and will encourage people to visit AlUla and Saudi Arabia to take part in a global sporting event that promotes environmentally friendly principles and initiatives.

The race contained several medical care stops and catering stations, and each participant received a number in addition to a welcome gift and a shirt. An inaugural dinner was held to welcome contestants on the night before the race.

EcoTrail AlUla is the first race to occur in the Middle East and one of the most notable sports events of this year’s Winter at Tantora festival. The race was sponsored by STC, Almarai Company, Sabeeka Energy Bar, Whites, and Hussak Adventures. The festival’s latest season also provides a wide range of diverse experiences that meet the needs of all visitors and entertain all tastes, for individuals, groups or families from all walks of life.

The festival began on Dec. 19 and will run until March 7, 2020. Guests of the second season of this year will be able to visit the astonishing historical and heritage sites exclusively, and attend the international musical and artistic performances.