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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - JEDDAH — Efforts to grow the game of golf in Saudi Arabia were boosted Wednesday when former Masters winner and world No. 12, Patrick Reed, surprised over 100 school students with a visit ahead of this week’s Saudi International.
The visit was part of Golf Saudi’s drive to inspire over one million to try the game in the next decade, part of the country’s investment in sport at all levels.
The Saudi International features one of the strongest fields in the European Tour season, with Reed teeing up in a field that also boasts world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, defending champion Dustin Johnson, Open winner Shane Lowry and five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson.
Reed returned to the school he first visited last year, to meet and talk to students about golf, the importance of sport and being active, as well as important lessons from his career.
Following the visit, Reed said: “I want to be a worldwide player but also help grow the game of golf, so any time we get the juniors involved, it’s a special moment for me. I came (to the school) last year and had an amazing time. Coming back and seeing some familiar and new faces, just the support they’ve given myself and the golf tournament in general is unbelievable. We had a blast. I can’t wait to do it again.”
Acknowledging the event’s mission to attract a new audience and grow golf with people of all ages, he added: “Last year when we were out there on the course, seeing as many kids as we did walking around, it’s awesome to see. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Reed also referenced the responsibility he feels to travel to emerging golf markets to bolster the game worldwide.
“That’s the only way golf is going to grow in the next generation and generations after that is by doing things that Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer did, and the things that Tiger and Phil have done, and now it's our role.”
Lourens de Jager from The World Academy said: “Patrick has created a love for golf, an interest and it’s definitely a huge change since last year. We are now taking our students to the course for PE to start playing golf. This tournament creates a lot of excitement and will hopefully encourage them to pursue as a career as well.”
Commenting on what message from Patrick best resonated with the students, de Jager added: “Perseverance. Nothing comes easy. You have to work at it and as soon as you achieve a certain milestone, it becomes more difficult. You have to keep persevering until you reach his level. That’s the most important message.”
The Saudi International is part of the country’s investment in sport at all levels; from the grassroots to partnerships with history making global events & superstars.
Sports hosted include WWE, Formula-E, the Dakar Rally, international tennis, Italian and Spanish Super Cup football, plus international football. Last December, the world watched on as Anthony Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz Jr to retain his world heavyweight titles in the Clash on the Dunes.
The country has ambitions to attract over 1 million to try golf over the next decade. The investment includes the building of top-class golf facilities including 13 new courses by 2030, development of junior talent with training and coaching, plus events.
In December, the Ladies European Tour announced the first ever professional women’s golf event in the Kingdom, the Saudi Ladies Championship, which will take place in March, also at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
The inaugural Saudi International last year was won by Dustin Johnson and this year’s field also includes Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Martyn Kaymer competing for the $3.5m prize fund.
The tournament is more than just golf — its entertainment and concerts make for ‘The Ultimate Day Out’. The musical line-up includes Belgian born DJ duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Italian DJ Marco Carola, Canadian singer and songwriter Bryan Adams, DJ and record producer Zedd, the Gipsy Kings, Puerto Rican music sensation and Luis Fonsi.
Enjoy the Ultimate Day Out for golf fans, friends and families with tickets now on sale, priced at SR50 per day or SR160 for a full tournament pass (four days), inclusive of the concerts. — SG
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