Phil Mickelson inspires teenager on mission to become first Saudi female golf professional

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Updated 02 February 2020

Phil Mickelson inspires teenager on mission to become first Saudi female golf professional

  • Mickelson is making debut at Saudi International
  • Saudi teenager also met with world No. 1 Brooks Koepka

KAEC, Jeddah: Golfing legend Phil Mickelson, the winner of 42 PGA Tour victories, including five Majors, has passed on inspiring words of support to Saudi 16-year-old Layla Al-Telmissani in her quest to become the Kingdom’s first ever female golf professional.

Mickelson, who is making his debut at the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, has been impressed with all he’s seen on his first visit to the Kingdom including the determined attitude of young Al-Telmissani.

The youngster has only been playing golf for a matter of months, after joining the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City with the rest of her family, but has already made giant strides – even playing in the Pan Arabia Golf Championship in Egypt last summer alongside her mother.

But the encounter with Mickelson, considered one of the greatest players of all time, as well as with the current world No. 1 golfer, Brooks Koepka is likely only to further fuel the drive and ambition of the ambitious schoolgirl.

Speaking after sharing some time with Al-Telmissani, ‘Lefty’ as he’s affectionately known, said: “I’m excited to have met a young girl who wants to be the first professional Saudi female golfer. She seems like she’s driven and motivated, and I love the support that she’s getting. Layla seemed really cool – and her brother Omar too.

“I love it. I just love it. It melts me to see kids out here. To see young kids get into the game is exciting for me. I care about this game and to see the excitement level in some of the young kids here and to see that there are plans for many courses here in this new city and across the country. I think it is very cool. The more we get, the better.”

Tickets for the Saudi International’s final day remain on sale, priced at 50 SAR per day. Exclusive concert tickets start at SAR75 SAR. For more tournament information, visit www.saudiinternational.com


Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

Updated 03 July 2020

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

  • Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment

SPIELBERG, South Africa: Max Verstappen will seek a hat trick of home wins for Red Bull and an early lead in the drivers championship at this weekend’s delayed and somewhat surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

For everyone involved, the race will be an unprecedented experience — the calendar is unknown beyond the first eight races in Europe in 10 weeks, all to be run behind closed doors and severe limitations introduced with a new paddock protocol forbidding meetings.

As racing returns, the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation, which requires all participants to be tested before travel to Austria on private chartered jets, ongoing tests, the separation of teams and car crews into “bubbles” and controlled hotels.

Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment, there will be no sponsors, no guests and only a limited number of accredited broadcast and written news media.

Journalists, limited to a dozen instead of 300 or more, have to pass a test within 72 hours in advance of arrival and will not be allowed to leave the media center.

All interviews and news conferences will take place by video.

The teams will be kept isolated, based in tents with awnings instead of their usual grand motorhomes — and there is expected to be a synchronized taking the knee by the drivers on the grid, to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of Sunday’s race.

Afterwards, there will be no podium ceremony.

When the race begins, it will end the longest gap between races in the sport since 1962, but with two successive races in Austria and then one in Hungary, the pressure will be immediate and intense.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “There’s been a long drought. We all do this because we love it. We’ve missed it, so we can’t wait to start.”

“It’s going to be exciting and intense. The races come thick and fast.”

Dutch driver Verstappen, who bullied his way past Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc to triumph in front of a mass of his “orange army” of fans last year, says he is unfazed by high expectations or the absence of spectators at the Red Bull Ring, a remote and compact circuit in the Styrian Alps.

“I am not thinking about a hat trick,” he said.

“The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and to perform at my best.

“I never consider myself as a favorite because, actually, when you look at the track, it’s not even our best one, but last year it was very warm and we were good at keeping the engine cool.

“So I don’t expect an easy win. I think Mercedes will be very strong again and they are the ones to beat.”

Verstappen, who has kept a low profile during the lockdown, delivered three wins and eight podiums last year as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth title with Mercedes, who this year seek an unprecedented seventh constructors’ and drivers’ double in succession.

Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon will have an upgraded Honda engine package, developed since the coronavirus lockdown ended, to boost them at the contest in the Styrian Alps where the 800-meter altitude can affect engine performance.

Mercedes will also have an updated package while Ferrari, struggling to match them in pre-season testing, announced Tuesday that they are updating their cars for the third race in Hungary.

Hamilton this year bids for a record-equalling seventh drivers title as he campaigns passionately for greater diversity, and against racism, in the sport.

“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that F1 and all of us have experienced,” he said in a video from the team, which — at his prompting — is running black livery this year to support equality and diversity.