Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

Saudi Arabia will hold its first-ever women’s professional golf tournament in March when the Saudi Ladies Championship tees off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

  • Record prize money of $19.87 million for the LET 2020 season offered

JEDDAH: Saudi golfers Othman Almulla and Faisal Salhab have said they cannot wait for the Saudi Ladies Championship to happen in the Kingdom, after a UK newspaper confirmed the tournament was one of three new events added to the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule.

The Daily Telegraph said the Ladies European Tour would offer record prize money of £15.2 million ($19.87 million) for the 2020 season, an increase of almost £4 million on last year. The cash injection comes in part due to having three new events, all offering prize money of at least $1 million, including the inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship to be held in March.
The exclusive report said there would be 24 events on the LET this year, an increase of four from last year. In addition to the Saudi tournament and the Scandinavian Mixed event, the third event to have a prize pot of over $1 million will be a new event to be held in the UK in August, ahead of the Ladies Scottish Open and the Women’s Open.
Almulla and Faisal will both tee off alongside the biggest names in golf in the Saudi International, which starts next Thursday at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
Almulla, who turned professional during the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, is playing on a pro invite while the 23-year-old Riyadh-based Faisal qualified following his victory in the 5th Saudi Open at the Riyadh Golf Course in November last year.  
Saud Alsharif, from the Eastern Province like Almulla, completes the Saudi trio in action in the Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 European Tour event. Alsharif earned his second straight stint in the tournament by virtue of his top ranking.
Almulla, a decorated amateur golfer and the youngest to qualify for the Dubai Desert Classic before another Saudi, Khaled Attieh, broke his record, told Arab News: “I think it’s a wonderful time for the sport of golf in Saudi Arabia, with the big developments the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi have put in place.”
“We already see the rewards of their ambitious plans with the first-ever female participation in an international event at the Pan Arab and GCC Championships in Egypt and Oman this year.
“And now with the first-ever ladies professional golf championship happening in Saudi Arabia, this will further motivate and inspire the next generation of golfers to continue improving,” Almulla added.
Salhab, who just ended a training camp with Alsharif and coach Jamie McConnell, director of instruction at the Claude Harmon Golf Academy in Dubai, said: “It’s great to have a Ladies European Tour event in Saudi Arabia. It emphasizes how the game is growing.
“It’s unreal to have such big events for men and women hosted in the Kingdom and hopefully inspire the next generation of golfers to pick up the sport.
“By having an event like this one take place in our backyard will hopefully expose many women to learn about the beautiful game,” Salhab added.
The Saudi Ladies Championship, professional golf’s newest high-profile tournament being hosted by the country, will take place March 19 to 22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club under the aegis of the LET and the Saudi Golf Federation.
Golf Saudi announced last month that it was working with several LET stars to promote golf to local audiences, and to enhance the visibility of its Saudi golf development program and the country’s golf tourism. The UK’s Carly Booth, Amy Boulden and Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert, will each wear the Golf Saudi logo as ambassadors of the program.


The Egyptian showjumper making the Arab world proud

Updated 07 August 2020

The Egyptian showjumper making the Arab world proud

  • Mohamed Zeyada has secured his place in sporting history by winning a spot at the Olympic Games
  • A big challenge for Zeyada has been Egypt’s longstanding ban on the import and export of horses

CAIRO: Whatever happens from here on, Mohamed Zeyada (also known as Mouda) will always be remembered as the Egyptian equestrian whose team achieved something that has eluded the country for more than 60 years: Securing a spot at the Olympic Games.

Now 25, Zeyada has been riding since the age of 5. “It all started when my parents and I were in Smouha Club in Alexandria, and the big sand arena full of horses caught my eye,” he said.

“As a child, I asked my mother if I could ride a horse, but of course she refused. That day, I wouldn’t leave the club until I got on top of one of those horses. I haven’t stopped riding since.”

Zeyada’s mother was terrified at first, but as his biggest supporter and manager, she plunged into the world of horseback riding.

“Despite her fears, my mother learned the ins and outs of the sport,” he said. “Now she’s an FEI level 3 jury, so she actually gets me asking her for rules.”

Egyptian rider Zeyada has been riding since the age of 5. (Supplied)

The passionate showjumper was only 6 when he took part in his first competition, which was hosted at Abdel Said’s private farm in Alexandria.

Together with Said, another member of the national showjumpers team, Zeyada would train on the difficult fences first.

With the constant support of his mother and Hesham Hatab, president of the Egyptian Equestrian Federation and of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, Zeyada was ready to move on to bigger things by the age of 13.

“Growing up, I used to idolize Karim El-Zoghby. Back then, Karim was in the Netherlands, and in order for me to get the training I needed to become a world-class rider, I too had to move there. Balancing between my studies and riding in the Netherlands required dedication, discipline and persistence,” Zeyada said.

“A few years later, joining pharmacy school didn’t make that task any easier. I remember skimming through 14 lectures a day just to catch up on my studies. My mom was my only motivation. Without her constant support, I wouldn’t have been able to tackle all these challenges.”

The passionate showjumper was only 6 when he took part in his first competition. (Supplied)

These were not the only challenges facing Zeyada. Egypt was long banned from importing and exporting horses, which prevented the ambitious young athlete from riding in World Cup qualifiers or sending his horses abroad.

“I felt imprisoned, stuck with no way out. Back then, I decided to put my training on hold just so I can focus on my studies. I felt that the time, money and effort spent on this sport weren’t taking me where I wanted to be,” he said.

“I didn’t quit, but I only participated in shows, and I can safely say this was surely one mistake I learned from.”

All the hard work finally paid off for Zeyada and the national team when the all-star quartet scored Egypt its first-ever Nations Cup win in Morocco. Shortly after, the team went on to the Olympics qualifier games.

“We haven’t had that much support. We were all training, riding and competing independently,” Zeyada said.

“It’s just recently that we started receiving some financial support to help ease the burden. We were able to prove that we can deliver results with very limited resources.”

While the dedicated rider looks calm and collected on the outside, he admits that the Tokyo Olympics will not be an easy task. (Supplied)

While the dedicated rider looks calm and collected on the outside, he admits that the Tokyo Olympics will not be an easy task. (It has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is now set to take place in July-August 2021.)

“Qualifying for the World Cup games is a win on its own. It’s something we haven’t done in 60 years, but it’s only the beginning,” Zeyada said.

“We’re going through extensive preparations. I just qualified my second horse, just to make sure I have a plan B in case anything goes wrong. My show plan is already set and communicated with all my team members, from my grooms to my vet and my blacksmith,” he added.

“Currently, I’m pampering my horses with the best training, health, grooming and happiness routines. Ultimately, the goal here is to get my horse, my partner, in tip-top shape, both physically and mentally.

“Winning isn’t possible without a partnership, a relationship with your horse. To be up there on top, everyone has to give 100 percent.”

* This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.