The Ladies European Tour is breaking new ground this week with the first women’s professional golf tournament in Abu Dhabi: the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in the UAE capital.
This is the first of three Ladies European Tour events being played in the Middle East as the tour enters the final straight of 2016 and the excitement is set to reach fever pitch on Saturday as the players bid to become the inaugural event champion and inspire local women to take up the game.
Amy Boulden has spent a lot of time practising in Abu Dhabi as her sister, Kim, was formerly a teacher at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. She is one of 126 players in the field who cannot wait to tee off in the first round on Wednesday.
The 2014 Omega Rookie of the Year from Wales, who recently posted a season-best tie for 5th place in France, Boulden said: “I’m really excited and it’s nice because this is like a home from home. My sister used to live out here so I’ve got a lot of friends from around this area. I’m staying with friends that live on the golf course and it’s nice to have that feeling. Hopefully a lot of people will come out and watch and support. I’m really looking forward to playing because the course is set up really nicely. I’m playing well so it’s just keeping that going and I know that if I’m feeling good on the golf course then I’ll have a good week.”
Carly Booth of Scotland, who previously played in the 2011 Gary Player Invitational at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, commented: “It’s always nice to be back here because I’ve spent a lot of time in the UAE over the last few years and it’s great to have a tournament in Abu Dhabi and be here at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. It’s nice to have a few events in this area, with Dubai and Doha coming up. Golf has grown so much here and the men have three or four events, so it’s nice to finally have the women out here as well. There are some amazing golf courses and I think that people need to see it more. It’s a great place for the Ladies European Tour to come and play.”
LET Rookie professional Aditi Ashok, who represented India in the Olympic Games in Rio in August, commented: “I think it’s important that the women play here, because the men have had events for a really long time. This is the first women’s professional golf event here in Abu Dhabi and there are some great golf courses. It’s a really golf friendly region. The weather is great and it’s a really nice golf course so I’m enjoying it. I love the greens; they are really huge. You need to hit the ball into the right spot on every hole. Some of the holes are easy, but the pin position can make it a birdie hole or a par. I’ve had top 10s coming all the way here, so I’m trying to do better and hopefully play well every day and reach the top.”
Belen Mozo of Spain, who finished second in the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters, said: “It’s my first time in the UAE and I was very excited that I was granted an invitation because I love learning about the Arab culture. I’ve read a lot of books and I love it. I came here early and did some tourism. I’m just fascinated, and the fact that we are here to grow women’s sports makes me like it even more. I’m playing way better than the last two years. My confidence has been through the roof lately compared to the last two years. I feel like I can contend in tournaments and that’s a better feeling. I’m prepared for whatever happens. The level here is absolutely very high so I have to play my best.”
The 2017 European Solheim Cup captain and Guest of Honour Annika Sörenstam, who will be acting as a television commentator during the tournament, told Golf Digest Middle East: “It will of course take a little time and effort to grow the game in Abu Dhabi, but this tournament is the perfect first step to doing that. Hopefully the exposure that we generate, and the engagement that we have with the people who attend, can lay the foundation in place for more people, especially youngsters, to start playing golf and aspiring to emulate the girls on tour.”
The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open will take place from 2-5 November 2016 at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and is sponsored by: FBMA, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, TDIC, Al Masaood, CNBC, Etihad, Marriott Downtown Abu Dhabi and Omega. The event is free to attend and more information is available from www.fbmladiesopen.com.