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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 January 2021

Othman Almulla lauds impact of Saudi International as golf continues rapid growth in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom's first professional golfer will once again compete alongside some of the game's best players at the tournament's third edition in February

Othman Almulla has competed in both previous editions of the Saudi International and will tee it up at the third tournament in February. Getty
Othman Almulla has competed in both previous editions of the Saudi International and will tee it up at the third tournament in February. Getty

Saudi Arabia’s first professional golfer, Othman Almulla, has praised the impact of the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, as he prepares for a third appearance at the tournament early next year.

The European Tour event, which debuted last year, returns to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from February 4-7, with a number of the game’s lead players already committed.

Dustin Johnson, the current world No 1 and recently crowned Masters champion, has been confirmed, alongside this year’s US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau and Shane Lowry, the reigning Open champion.

Major champions Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, together with newly anointed Race to Dubai winner Lee Westwood, will join the trio in King Abdullah Economic City. The event carries a prize fund of $3.5 million.

“I think the tournament continues to really raise the bar with the strength and calibre of its field,” Almulla said. “It shows that the tournaments in Saudi Arabia will be a mainstay on tour for many years to come.

“These brilliant players are keen to come to experience golf here and to experience Saudi Arabia – it is something we are proud of as Saudis.

“Saudi Arabia has been at the sports forefront of the big changes around the world in the last couple of years. Golf tournaments like this are a big part of that to help the grow tourism and business.”

Saudi’s influence on professional golf continues to deepen, with two high-profile events added this year to the Ladies European Tour (LET): the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, with its $1 million purse, and the Saudi Ladies Team International. Both tournaments, captured by eventual Order of Merit winner Emily Pedersen, took place last month.

World No 1 and reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson will return to the Saudi International. Getty Images
World No 1 and reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson will return to the Saudi International. Getty Images

Almulla was on site in a commentary role for host broadcaster KSA Sports, first taking in the history-making Saudi Ladies International – the inaugural professional women’s event in the kingdom.

It marks a stark contract to when Almulla took up the game in 2001, where he learned to play on desert sand. At the time, there were fewer than 1,000 regular golfers in Saudi; now that number exceeds 5,000. Meanwhile, 1,000 women and girls signed up for golf lessons on the back of last month’s LET stop.

“It’s such an important time for golf here,” Almulla said. “There has been an amazing shift in the sport with Golf Saudi and the [Saudi Golf] Federation creating new opportunities. I’m jealous it wasn’t like this when I started playing.

“The first Ladies events were so surreal – truly historic moments for golf here, like the men’s tournaments before them. It’s such an important time for golf in Saudi Arabia as we continue to inspire and educate newer generations to experience golf.”

Henrik Stenson is one of many star names and major champions confirmed for the 2021 Saudi International. Getty Images
Henrik Stenson is one of many star names and major champions confirmed for the 2021 Saudi International. Getty Images

Almulla’s previous two appearances at the Saudi International have provided invaluable experience to the Riyadh-born golfer, despite missing the cut in each. He was joined at this year’s event by leading Saudi amateurs Saud Al Sharif – Al Sharif competed in 2019 too – and Faisal Al Salhab, with 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell emerging as the winner. Johnson landed the inaugural title, while also finishing runner-up in February.

“The game of golf can give so much to many people with its values,” Almulla said. “It’s our responsibility as ambassadors and lovers of the game of golf to share that experiences, with world-class events like this helping to spread the message.”

Updated: December 29, 2020 02:14 PM

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