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.

Saudi Arabia to stage first professional ladies golf tournament

Updated 12 December 2019

Saudi Arabia to stage first professional ladies golf tournament

  • Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host a Ladies European Tour event in March

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia continued its groundbreaking sporting development with Thursday’s announcement that a Ladies European Tour (LET) event will take place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from March 19 to 22.

The 72-hole stroke play tournament will be the first time that professional female golfers have played in the Kingdom and will  have a $1 million prize fund for which 108 golfers are expected to compete. It will be broadcast domestically and to more than 340 million homes across more than 55 countries worldwide, according to a press release from Golf Saudi.

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is also the host of the men's European Tour’s Saudi International. Dustin Johnson won the first staging of the competition this year and will return in January to defend his title against a world-class field including Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau and Henrik Stenson.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said in the press release announcing the ladies competition: “We are delighted to be creating history by hosting the inaugural ladies professional tournament in March. I hope the tournament will inspire many women to take up the great game of golf and awaken their interest in this wonderful sport. We warmly welcome all the players to the Kingdom and wish everyone a rewarding experience in our magical country.”

“I am incredibly excited by this announcement and it is an honor for the Tour to be part of history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia,” said LET CEO Alexandra Armas in the press release. “(It) is an exciting prospect for everyone at LET and having seen the quality of the event staging for the Saudi International, I am sure this will be a fantastic experience for our players.”

Alongside the announcement of the tournament, Golf Saudi also revealed several new ambassadors from the LET who will help to promote golf in the Kingdom. 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.

Looking ahead to the inaugural LET event, three-time Tour winner Booth said: “I’m looking forward to being part of history with the other ladies on the tour and of course to competing over the Royal Greens course. I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play; they have been so enthusiastic and I am sure that seeing professional golfers compete in their country will inspire them to take up the game and strive for their dreams.”