More than just golf to the Saudi International

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The Entertainment Zone at the Saudi International promises to serve-up the ultimate day out. (Supplied)
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The Entertainment Zone at the Saudi International promises to serve-up the ultimate day out. (Supplied)
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World number one Brooks Koepka returns to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
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World number one Brooks Koepka returns to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2020

More than just golf to the Saudi International

  • World number one Brooks Koepka, last year’s tournament winner Dustin Johnson, and British Open champion Shane Lowry are just three of the big names teeing it up
  • Away from the fairways, the tournament becomes a must-visit for families and groups looking to have an unforgettable day out thanks to the Entertainment Zone

JEDDAH: Organizers of the second annual Saudi International golf tournament have unveiled plans for a thrilling, action-packed Entertainment Zone that promises to serve-up the ultimate day out for anyone looking to experience something new later this month.

The 2020 Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers will welcome the most famous golfers on the planet to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City this January 30th – February 2nd.

Household names including world number one Brooks Koepka, last year’s tournament winner Dustin Johnson, and British Open champion Shane Lowry are just three of the big name, Major-winning players taking to the course, guaranteeing four days of world-class golf for fans to enjoy.

But away from the fairway, and the tournament becomes a must-visit for families and groups looking to have an unforgettable day out thanks to its just announced experience-packed Entertainment Zone.

Spread over a huge outdoor area, the zone will allow visitors to try everything from gourmet burgers, shrimp and ice cream, to hyper-speed, mega-real VR races through the streets of Diriyah in a Formula E car, to relaxing with a coffee watching the golf play-out on the Saudi Aramco Big Screen – or jumping through an enormous inflatable assault course!

Saudi International Tournament Director Ben Freeman said: “The 2020 Saudi International is all about the ultimate day out; golf, entertainment and music. Whether friend groups, families or golf fans, people will be heading to King Abdullah Economic City to enjoy a not to miss experience. That’s what the Entertainment Zone will provide – and then some!

“Away from the on-course action – which, of course, all visitors can enjoy the thrill of live and up close – our Entertainment Zone will have food trucks serving delicious international cuisine, drinks and snacks; a gamers’ paradise in our PIF-powered E-Sports Arena; endless fun for children; and a Performance Zone dreamt up by Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation to show just how easy and fun it is to get out playing golf – a sport that’s in its infancy here in the Kingdom but growing considerably.

“With the Friday, Saturday and Sunday climaxing with live concerts from some of the biggest superstar artists on the planet, the entire weekend will be electric with a true festival vibe, and we can’t wait for people to experience it.”

The specially made Entertainment Zone will be split across five unique areas.

Its ‘Taste’ hub will be home to a mouth-watering food oasis, which will be packed with flavours from the home countries of many of the tournament’s players, all served from uber-cool food-trucks.

HD super pods in the Entertainment Zone’s darkened E-Sports Arena, powered by PIF, will give gamers the chance to pursue their passion – but this time set in some of Saudi’s most sensational locations. Featuring VR headsets, gamers will be able to race through the ancient streets of Ad Diriyah at the controls of a Formula E car, or experience the thrills and spills of hurtling through the desert as part of the hair-raising Dakar Rally. A special E-Golf challenge will allow have-a-go golfer-gamers to pit themselves against the likes of four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka online too.

The central feature of the Entertainment Zone will be its ultra-modern Performance Zone, presented by Golf Saudi and Saudi Golf Federation, where absolute beginners through regular golfers alike will be able to get hold of a golf club and try their hand on a selection of fun games and challenges, with prizes to be won. Presented by Golf Saudi, the zone’s ultra-real golf simulators will digitally transport those wanting a taster session onto the tee of many of the most famous golf courses in the world. It will also have course-condition putting and chipping areas, and mini golf.

If that whets the appetite for fun, then the ‘Bounce’ area will be a must visit – as it is entirely inflatable! The air-filled assault course will have obstacles, tunnels and slides guaranteeing hours of hilarious fun, for children and adults. If it all proves too much for the kids, then the Play & Party zone for three to nine-year-olds is a safe stop after.

Freeman added: “With the ultimate combination of have-a-go fun, hands-on learning and delicious foodie experiences – plus superstar live DJs and artists – time spent away from the golfing action at the Saudi International promises to be just as momentous as the action unfolding on the course.”

With two weeks to go until the competition begins, visitors are being advised to start planning their trip to what promises to be ‘The Ultimate Day Out’ at the Saudi International.

A total 132 players will descend on the stunning King Abdullah Economic City’s Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the end of the month, competing for a share of the $3.5m prize fund on offer.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, world number one Brooks Koepka, five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson and US Masters winner Patrick Reed are just four of the box office US names competing. British Open Champion Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup heroes Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia – who boast a further two Major titles between them – will lead the European contingent of household names battling it out.

Partner support as the tournament heads into its second year remains as strong as ever, with SoftBank Investment Advisers, Saudi Aramco, Public Investment Fund, Saudia, SAMBA, Rolex, Saddik & Mohamed Attar, GIB, STC, Saudi Cargo, UMA Premium, Invest Saudi, Xerox, Mix FM, Al Arabiya, Nespresso and Evian all powering the event.

Tickets are now on sale, priced at 50 SAR per day or 160 SAR for a full tournament pass (four days). Exclusive concert tickets will be available soon.

For more tournament information, visit www.saudiinternational.com


Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin partner on NASCAR team for Wallace

Updated 22 September 2020

Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin partner on NASCAR team for Wallace

  • Michael Jordan becomes the first Black principal owner of a full-time Cup team
  • Former NBA star dabbled in racing before with Michael Jordan Motorsports

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Denny Hamlin has joined Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan to form a NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace as the driver, a high-profile pairing of a Black majority team owner and the only Black driver at NASCAR’s top level.
The partnership was announced Monday night in coordinated social media posts by Jordan and Hamlin, with Wallace adding his own comment. The posts showed a picture of Jordan alongside a firesuit-clad Hamlin in a motorhome at a race track.
“Historically, NASCAR has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners,” Jordan said in his statement. “The timing seemed perfect as NASCAR is evolving and embracing social change more and more.”
Jordan becomes the first Black principal owner of a full-time Cup team since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove his own race car in 495 races from 1961 to 1973. Scott’s 1964 victory at the Jacksonville 200 is the only win by a Black driver in Cup history.
The NBA great, who earlier this year pledged $100 million over 10 years for initiatives combating systemic racism, said the move into NASCAR is another step toward racial equality.
“I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing,” Jordan said.
Jordan joins former NBA player Brad Daugherty, a partner at JTG Daugherty Racing, as the only Black owners at NASCAR’s elite Cup level.
“Michael and Bubba can be a powerful voice together, not only in our sport, but also well beyond it,” Hamlin said.
Hamlin, a three-time Daytona 500 winner and a top contender for this year’s Cup title, will be part of a single-car Toyota entry aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin has raced his entire career for Gibbs, a Hall of Fame NFL coach.
“Eleven years ago I met Michael Jordan at a then-Charlotte Bobcats game and we became fast friends,” Hamlin wrote. “Not long after, I joined Jordan Brand as their first NASCAR athlete. Our friendship has grown over the years and now we are ready to take it to the next level.
“Deciding on the driver was easy — it had to be Bubba Wallace.”
Wallace is the only Black driver in the Cup Series and this season used his platform to push for racial equality. The 27-year-old successfully urged NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag at its events.
Wallace is winless in 105 Cup starts over four seasons, but he has six career victories in the Truck Series. He’s been hampered by mid-level equipment driving the No. 43 for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and, until this summer, the team struggled to land sponsorship.
“Bubba has shown tremendous improvement since joining the Cup Series and we believe he’s ready to take his career to a higher level,” Hamlin said. “He deserves the opportunity to compete for race wins and our team will make sure he has the resources to do just that.
“Off the track, Bubba has been a loud voice for change in our sport and our country. MJ and I support him fully in those efforts and stand beside him.”
There’s been speculation for months that Hamlin was organizing some sort of ownership group as he expects NASCAR’s business model to become more favorable for team owners when the “Next Gen” car is released in 2022. NASCAR rules prohibit a current driver from owning a team and driving for another, but Hamlin works around the policy with Jordan as the principal owner.
“Starting a race team has been something that Michael and I have talked about while playing golf together over the years, but the timing or circumstances were never really right,” Hamlin said. “It just makes sense now to lay the foundation for my racing career after I’m done driving and also help an up-and-coming driver like Bubba take his career to a higher level.”
In a statement, NASCAR welcomed Jordan to the series.
“His presence at NASCAR’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around our sport,” NASCAR said.
Jordan became a partial owner of the Bobcats in 2006 and bought the team outright in 2010, restoring the franchise to its original Hornets name. Hamlin has been a longtime season-ticket holder with courtside seats along the visitors’ bench.
Jordan dabbled in racing before with Michael Jordan Motorsports. He owned an AMA Superbike team and had one win in 10 years. Jordan has twice traveled to the NASCAR season finale to watch Hamlin race for the championship. Hamlin, who’s 39, is still seeking his first title.
“Growing up in North Carolina, my parents would take my brothers, sisters and me to races, and I’ve been a NASCAR fan my whole life,” Jordan said. “The opportunity to own my own race team in partnership with my friend, Denny Hamlin, and to have Bubba Wallace driving for us, is very exciting for me.”
Wallace, who has cobbled together about $18 million in sponsorship deals since he made racial equality his platform, had already announced he was parting with Petty.
“This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I believe is a great fit for me at this point in my career,” Wallace wrote. “I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I’m super pumped to begin this adventure with them.”
Jordan and Hamlin purchased a charter for their team from Germain Racing that guarantees Wallace a spot in the 40-car field every week.