Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event

Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
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Saud Al-Sharif, playing with Open Champion Shane Lowry, ahead of 2020 Saudi International, secured his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
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Saud Al-Sharif, with Open Champion Shane Lowry, ahead of 2020 Saudi International, secured his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
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Saud Al-Sharif, with Open Champion Shane Lowry, ahead of 2020 Saudi International, secured his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo)
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Updated 13 January 2021

Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event

Saudi International 2021 invites regional talent to take part in prestigious golf event
  • Othman Almulla, Saud Al-Sharif to represent Saudi Arabia; Jordan’s Shergo Kurdi among international rising stars invited
  • One of golf’s most talked-about prospects, America’s Akshay Bhatia, who turns 19 at the end of January, will also be in the lineup alongside his hero, Phil Mickelson

JEDDAH: Golf Saudi announced the professional and amateur invitations on Wednesday for the Saudi International, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, to take place Feb. 4-7 at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

Invitees will get the chance to compete alongside a world-class field including world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau as well as leading Europeans Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and defending champion Graeme McDowell.

Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla made history in 2019 when he became the first golfer from the Kingdom to turn professional and compete internationally and is receiving his third invitation from Golf Saudi to compete in one of the European Tour’s leading events. Saud Al-Sharif will be the second Saudi player in the field, securing his invite as the leading amateur golfer in Saudi Arabia, having impressed on the 2020 MENA Tour, where he shot the lowest round of the day on the fourth event of the 2020 season. He also finished second in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Championship in Oman at the start of the year.

Al-Sharif said: “We are very fortunate to have such a high-profile event in our country, and I feel very honored to be representing Saudi Arabia in a field of such high-quality global golfers. This will be my third time playing, and each year I gain such invaluable insight into what it takes to be a top golfer. I hope that all the work I have been putting into my game since last year pays off and I can make everyone proud by becoming the first player from the Kingdom to make the cut.”

One of golf’s most talked-about rising stars, America’s Akshay Bhatia, who turns 19 at the end of January, will also be in the lineup alongside his hero, Phil Mickelson. Formerly the US’s top-ranked junior, Bhatia turned professional after becoming the first high-school student to compete on the US Walker Cup team in 2019 and is already well-known for his impressive ball-striking and 125-mile-an-hour swing speed.

England’s Harry Hall, who also made his professional debut following the 2019 Walker Cup, has just completed his first year as a professional, having concentrated largely on the PGA Korn Ferry Tour, where he impressed with three top-ten finishes. As he looks to gain his full status on the European Tour, this will offer a wonderful opportunity.

Joining their fellow countryman and defending Open champion Shane Lowry, and boosting the Irish representation in the field, are Paul Dunne and Cormac Sharvin. Dunne is a European Tour winner while Sharvin secured his European Tour card through finishing the 2019 Challenge Tour season in 11th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings following eight top-ten and six top-five finishes.

The final professional invitation goes to Japan’s Takumi Kanaya, the most exciting talent to join the professional ranks in 2020. A former No. 1 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings, Kanaya only turned professional in October and immediately underlined his potential by winning the Dunlop Phoenix Masters on the Japan Golf Tour in only his fourth start as a professional.

Kanaya commented: “I am very thankful to the Saudi Golf Federation for extending me this invitation. It will be a very important experience to play alongside so many of the best players in the world and a huge opportunity for me. One of my goals this year is to earn my European Tour card, so I will be hoping for a strong showing on my first visit to Saudi Arabia.”

Golf Saudi continues to showcase the stars of tomorrow with two more amateur invitations: one for Jordan’s Shergo Kurdi and the other for Spain’s Eduard Rousaud Sabate. Kurdi, a 17-year-old amateur, became the first player from the GCC and the Middle East to earn Official World Golf Ranking points with his runner-up finish on the MENA Tour at the Journey to Jordan tournament held at the Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba. Sabate currently sits at a career-high No. 4 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, having won twice in 2020, joining his fellow countrymen Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Sergio Garcia.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum resulting from hosting two extremely successful weeks of Ladies European Tour events last November as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “We are very excited to announce these invitations for the upcoming Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers. The inclusion of these players will inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps and support our goal to grow the game of golf in the Kingdom.

“As we embark on the third edition of our tournament, it feels right that we are also supporting so many young international players who look set to be the stars of tomorrow. We hope their experience [in] Saudi Arabia will be their first of many visits and they will be part of our journey [toward developing] a vibrant and sustainable golfing nation.”


Saudi showjumpers riding high

Saudi showjumpers riding high
With SR130,000 ($34,600) in cash prizes, the three-day competition, held without spectators due to the coronavirus restrictions, has been organized by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) in partnership with the Ministry of National Guard and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 42 min 5 sec ago

Saudi showjumpers riding high

Saudi showjumpers riding high
  • Elite riders saddle up for $34,600 National Guard Ministry cup at Jeddah Trio Ranch

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Guard Ministry’s showjumping cup competition kicked off on Thursday at the Jeddah Trio Ranch, with Abdullah Al-Sharbatly and Dalma Malhas leading a top-class equestrian lineup.

With SR130,000 ($34,600) in cash prizes, the three-day competition, held without spectators due to the coronavirus restrictions, has been organized by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) in partnership with the Ministry of National Guard and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority.
The competition consists of nine rounds, with three rounds each day. About 130 horses were registered in the competition. The fences were set at 1.15m for the small grade where about 80 riders competed on the first day.
Almost 40 equestrians took part in the 1.20m-1.25m medium grade. Another 20 competitors battled in the 1.30m-1.35m grade on the first day of competition.
“We have seven competitions under the names of seven ministries. After good international and Olympic results, support has doubled for equestrian sports, particularly showjumping,” a member of the SAEF technical committee, Ali Al-Sahli, told Arab News.
One rider, Naif Al-Sudairi, said that equestrianism in Saudi Arabia is making rapid advances on many levels.
“With Saudi Vision 2030, we now have more tournaments in all regions of the country, and the competition has heated up,” he told Arab News. “This can motivate the riders to improve and show our best in the run-up to international competitions.”
He added that he is looking forward to representing Saudi Arabia in the global equestrian events.

First day
In the small round on the first day of the competition, Khaled Al-Hady came first with 20 points. His horse, Doberlina Van de Kapel, came second with 18 points. Mohammed Hassan Al-Hadi was ranked third with 16 points, while Princess Al-Anoud Al-Saud secured fourth place with 14 points, and Waleed Al-Ghamdi was fifth with 12 points. Faisal Al-Ouda and Abdul Aziz Al-Hamazani came sixth and seventh, respectively.
In the medium class, Mohammed Al-Malki topped the ranking with 30 points followed by Khalid Al-Mobty, who collected 28 points. Badr Al-Fard came third with 26 points, and Abdullah Al-Sheikh was fourth with 24 points. Ahmed Bakarman came fifth with 22 points.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The competition consists of nine rounds, with three rounds each day.

• The fences were set at 1.15m for the small grade where about 80 riders competed on the first day.

• Almost 40 equestrians took part in the 1.20m-1.25m medium grade.

• Another 20 competitors battled in the 1.30m-1.35m grade on the first day of competition.

Malhas, who secured an individual bronze at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, after completing the round in 38 seconds without a single penalty, came ninth with 14 points. She is also the first Saudi female equestrian to take part in the individual hurdles at the 2018 World Equestrian Championship held in the US city of Tryon.


In the big round, Al-Sharbatly, who won the individual silver medal at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, came first with 40 points, followed by Abed Sanosy with 38 points. Fahad Al-Ghamdi was third with 36 points, while Badr Al-Fard was fourth with 34 points, and Talal Al-Juaid came fifth with 32 points. Sultan Al-Qarza’e and Khaled Al-Mobty came sixth and seventh, respectively.

Riders’ journey
Muneer Al-Ayoubi, who has been riding for over 20 years, told Arab News that showjumping requires understanding between rider and horse.
“I have been participating in showjumping (activities) for more than two years. It is the most difficult type of horse-riding activities,” he said. “Unlike horse racing and endurance riding, contestants have to keep training their horses. The rider and the horse should appear as if they were one soul.”
Arwa Mutabagani, owner and managing director of Jeddah Trio Ranch, said that they have riders of different levels from all over Saudi Arabia.
Speaking about the preparation to host the competition, Mutabagani said: “The horses arrive a couple of days before the competition, so we have to be ready. On-site, we have 150 horses participating, so we have different locations to host all these numbers. We made the warm-up arena ready for the riders to prepare their horses for the show.”
An Italian equestrian expert was brought in to handle the timing and ensure there are no complaints, she said. Mutabagani said that she is training a number of female riders to become champions. Family support is essential in this type of sport, she added.
“To reach a top position, dedication, family and team support, and sacrifices are all elements that should go together. You also have to have a good instructor, a good horse, and you have to have the right competition that can help you move to higher levels,” she said.
She mentioned her daughter, Dalma Malhas, as an example, saying: “When she was competing, she was young and spent weekends at the shows and not with her peers. So, you have to sacrifice being a normal teenager to reach the top.”
Meanwhile, Mohrah Faisal, a female equestrian who took part in the small round, said that she is grateful to SAEF for supporting female riders. “We did not have such an opportunity in the past. Now I hope I can represent the Kingdom at the Olympics.”
She said that her family believed in her passion for equestrianism once they saw her succeeding in many local competitions.
Wafa Hasson, another Saudi female rider, said she competed in the UAE two years ago after SAEF gave women riders the green light, which helped them improve.
Female riders are still looking for opportunities to learn. “I want to go as far as I can. I don’t really have a limit, I just want to see what I can achieve and I will do my best to achieve it.”
Ghalia Al-Musa, another participant, said that she has been riding for 13 years, and her mother is still her biggest supporter.
“SAEF allowed female riders to compete along with male riders in 2019, and it was good news for all female riders. In the same year, SAEF selected the best female riders to represent Saudi Arabia in the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, UAE. We came second as a team and I came fourth as an individual,” she told Arab News.
Al-Musa also hopes to represent Saudi Arabia in international events, including the Olympics.
Heavy rain in Jeddah on Friday forced the organizing committee of the National Guard showjumping cup to combine the second and third day of competition on Saturday (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) when the competition will come  to an end.