Martin Duff, Director of Golf at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club, is delighted with the positive responses from European Senior Tour members after the inaugural Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq earlier this month.
South Africa’s Chris Williams took home the title after beating Englishman Gary Marks in a play-off on the Peter Harradine-designed nine-hole golf course, as the pair finished their final rounds tied on 13 under par.
Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club hosted the first ever European Tour-sanctioned tournament to be played on a nine-hole golf course, and Duff, who has been with the club since its inception ten years ago, was delighted with the reception he and his staff received after the final putt dropped.
“From start to finish, it was a fantastic week,” said Duff. “Running an event like this, you always face a few challenges because you’re guessing a number of things, nobody is going to get everything right the first time.
“We did pretty well working things out and we made a few notes amongst ourselves with a few changes and improvements for next year. It was a great week and it will be even better next year and in the years ahead.
“When I first walked the route of this course, it was just sand with poles stuck in the ground. To see that turn to grass, have our first member, see the first person practising, host our first tournament, have our first hole in one, and then host an international event like this has been an incredible journey.
“It has taken just over ten years, which is reasonably impressive, and we have gone from sand to grandstand.”
The 57-man field looped the course a total of six times during the tournament itself, in addition to the three Pro-Ams held in the days before the event.
A second tee box was utilised on the par three and par five holes during the members’ second loop of the course, but Duff believes there is scope to expand this in the future.
“For the first time round, I personally think we set the course up correctly,” he said. “We have as many as six tee boxes on some holes, but we chose just to use two – we may offer more variation next year, but that would be the decision of the Tournament Director.
“This year, it was simple, efficient and straightforward. It was uncharted territory for everyone. In future we could use multiple tees for the different days, and our greens are big enough to accommodate a second hole if we chose to go down that route – but, for year one, the setup was spot on.
“I was speaking to some of our scratch league members and we were trying to guess the winning total – the lowest someone suggested was 14 under.
“Other said six or eight under par, and that was blown out of the water on the first day. That underlines how high the standard is on the Senior Tour, which a lot of people may not realise.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulla Al Thani, Deputy Chairman of Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club, believes this is the start of what could become a rich history of golf in the Emirate of Sharjah, following in the footsteps of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Kaimah, which regularly host European Tour and European Challenge Tour events.
“We are proud and honoured to have hosted the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters,” said Al Thani. “This championship is evidence of the high level of amenities the club has, which we rank as some of the best in the world.
“It represents a strong beginning to the journey the club will take in attracting more and more events of such distinction, building on its characteristics and amenities with a high level of service.”
H.E. Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal, the Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, added: “The Emirate of Sharjah achieved such a high level of success after hosting the event which attracted some of the Senior Tour’s best players.
“It comes as part of the overall Shurooq strategy which focusses on gathering efforts to sustain and improve Sharjah’s regional and international stature in the sporting and leisure sectors.
“We consider this championship as the beginning of a long run of events in the future that Sharjah is keen to host.”
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