Majed Al-Sorour hails Saudi International’s ‘tremendous impact’ on Kingdom’s golf growth
LONDON: Golf Saudi CEO and Saudi Golf Federation Vice President Majed Al-Sorour looks forward to the fourth annual tournament during an exclusive Q&A with Arab News
The Saudi International PIF powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers returns to Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from February 3-6, having grown every year since the inaugural event in 2019. What will make this year different ?
This is now our fourth event and, after three extremely successful events on the European Tour, the PIF Saudi International 2022 powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers will be the tournament’s first official event on the Asian Tour. This follows the recent announcement of a 10-year partnership between the Asian Tour and PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers – an incredibly exciting new dawn for the tournament which will see us welcoming not just the best golfers in Europe and North America, but now Asia too, cementing a field of 126 world-class golfers.
Why were organizers Saudi International so keen to partner with the Asian Tour?
It has been fantastic to welcome so many of the world’s biggest names to our event since 2019, and we are delighted with how the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers has progressed over the past three years. Our new partnership with the Asian Tour will be critical to the future success of the tournament due to the undeniable importance and potential of Asia’s position in world golf.
Players, sponsors and fans will benefit from this relationship in different ways. For PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, the partnership has allowed us to once again increase our field and tournament prize money from $3.5 million to $5 million. Most importantly, we look forward to working with the major tours to help create a more inclusive game for all skilled professional golfers alongside enthusiasts who want to learn more about golf, as we see this as a promising first step. in that direction.
One of Saudi International’s main goals is to inspire more Saudis to take up golf. As we head into the fourth event, how has the game grown in the Kingdom over the past four years?
This is absolutely the goal of not only PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, but the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF – and our Aramco Team Series events – too. And it’s safe to say that the impact of these events has been immense on golf in Saudi Arabia. We have seen consistent year-on-year growth in the number of men, women and children playing golf in the Kingdom, including over 1,200 female golfers who have signed up to learn to play just last year, following the launch of Golf Saudi’s Ladies First Club Free Golf Initiative.
We see our major tournaments as huge moments of inspiration for the Saudi people, but we also see them inspired by the work done on the course year-round by programs like Golf Saudi’s mass participation program, which ahead of the 2022 PIF Saudi International, powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, visited schools across the Kingdom as part of a trophy tour to further excite the next generation of Saudi golfers. These youngsters don’t have to look far for inspiration, with players like Othman Almulla, Saudi Arabia’s first professional golfer, as well as Faisal Salhab, recent winner of the Saudi Arabian Open and the Pan Arab Championship in Egypt, and Saud Al-Sharif, who won the Jordan Open last year – our two bright light amateurs, who have both won major amateur events recently, including the Saudi Open – make the pride of our country on the international scene.
Together, all of this helps us pursue our own goals as part of the broader Vision 2030 ambition, including getting 3.5 million Saudis to try golf for the first time by then; cementing 29,000 new regular Saudi golfers; actively engage 135,000 children in golf; the certification of 900 new physical educators to offer our schools’ golf program in 320 different schools; and the creation of 2,300 jobs in the golf industry in Saudi Arabia.
In 2020, just after the second Saudi International, Golf Saudi hosted the Golf Saudi Summit, a major corporate event that attracted international companies such as the GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf, Atlas Turf and the Club Managers Association of Europe , who have since developed programs. who contribute to the development of golf in Arabia.
This year’s Saudi international will boast his best field yet. What do you think attracts the majority of these world-class players to the Jeddah tournament?
The future we are building here is focused on the next generation. Many of these global superstars find it an easy concept to embrace and support. These world-class golfers are participating in the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers to help the game expand into new territories like here in the Kingdom because they are passionate about the future of the game. They also know the many benefits that come from playing golf and seek to inspire the younger generation to become more involved in a sport that offers so many physical and mental benefits – and it’s a game you can play for a lifetime.
It’s no secret that a number of the top-ranked touring professionals coming to play at PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers receive appearance fees – just as they are at many other events in touring around the world – and being elite athletes, they thrive playing against the best in the world. We have one of the strongest golf fields outside of the majors this year, so from a professional standpoint for many of them it makes sense to play here.
The motivations are also, I believe, altruistic – there is a genuine desire to see the game thrive in non-traditional markets. We strongly believe that the growth of golf will help the nation and people of Saudi Arabia in the future, and there is no doubt that these events are the catalysts for growing participation in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, we pride ourselves on our world class hospitality and from the feedback we have received, we strongly believe that golfers who have played in Saudi Arabia have had the experience of playing at an event that goes beyond their usual week.
At present, we can say that golf is really developing in Saudi Arabia. As CEO of Golf Saudi and Vice President of the Saudi Golf Federation, what does this mean to you?
This means that we are on the right track. The scale, scale and success of the initiatives, tournaments and events we have launched in recent years show that more and more Saudis are getting involved in golf every day. In the last year alone, we’ve taken Saudi-led events as far away as New York, London and Spain, each attracting a host of male and female golf stars and major winners, all for rave reviews from players and fans. As a country and in line with the goals of Vision 2030, we remain more ambitious than ever to continue to develop and grow golf in the Kingdom. We have more members than ever before, more Saudi success on the course than we’ve ever had, more courses, more coaches, more kids choosing clubs: these are all very positive signs. . As we continue to look to the future, we can take a few moments to look back on what we have accomplished to date and be very proud of it.
What else can we expect at this year’s tournament?
Everything that makes the Saudi International the perfect day will return this year, in a safe and COVID-controlled environment. This includes our superstar-filled field, which will feature the likes of two-time tournament champion Dustin Johnson, 2020 winner Graeme McDowell and big winners Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Shane Lowry.
In addition to close spectator spots for all the live action, ticket holders can come and soak up the stunning views of the Red Sea coast, where they can enjoy a coffee or mocktail in what is perhaps the most picturesque cafe in the Kingdom. There will also be food trucks, fun live games, challenges and entertainment for the whole family, and VIP hospitality for anyone looking for a very special day.