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  • Alistair Tait

More Money Grab than Grow Golf

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Ahmed Al musharrekh and amateur Ahmed Skaik share the plaudits as the top two United Arab Emirates players on the Official World Golf Ranking. They are jointly 1,815th on the pecking order. That’s as low as you can get on the current ranking.

There are no UAE players listed on the Rolex Women’s Golf Ranking.

Skaik is the highest ranked player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking at 2,165th. He’s one of three UAE males on the WAGR table. The others are ranked 5,796th (Paul Rezko), and 6,872nd (Saif Thabet) in a list that features 7,597 players.

Jamie Camero is the highest ranked UAE woman amateur at 2,565th. She is the only UAE female on a WAGR table consisting of 4,017 players.

Yet DP World becoming title sponsor of the European Tour, the DP World Tour, is going to grow the game of golf?

Let’s cut to the chase, DP World’s investment into the European Tour will significantly improve European Tour coffers and the bank balances of European Tour members. It’s great news after the impact Covid-19 has had on the European Tour schedule. Plaudits to everyone at the European Tour who worked on this deal.

The investment, details of which were not divulged, means minimum purses of $2 million next year; 13 events over $3 million; significant investment in the European Challenge Tour; a $10 million end-of-season DP World Tour Championship, the first eight figure purse in European Tour history; a total prize fund for regular European Tour events “north of $140 million;” a total prize fund over $200 million including the majors and WGCs.

What’s not to like?

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said the decision to go with DP World Tour was thought through long and hard. He said:

“Our name in many ways was a misnomer. We are a world tour. We will always remember our heritage and those who have gone before us but we also rejoice in our global footprint"

He cited 23 events in Europe next season compared to 24 in the rest of the globe as proof.

Here’s the rub: European Tour members couldn’t care less what the circuit is called as long as they make a nice living. Volvo was title sponsor of the European Tour between 1988 and 1995, and no one batted an eyelid. Indeed, very few called it the Volvo Tour, just as the majority will still be calling it the European Tour despite the money DP World is investing.

European Tour chairman David Williams said:

“This is just not a financial decision.”

Pull the other one!

This deal is all about greenbacks, “a money grab,” as a certain Rory McIlroy might say. And why not? If DP world has come waving its cheque book then why would the European Tour turn it down? Isn’t grabbing money what professional golf is all about?

The deal is also a shot across the bows of those in Saudi Arabia with ambitions of creating a world circuit under Greg Norman’s leadership. Over to you Greg.

So definitely a day to celebrate for the European Tour and its members. Perhaps a few players might just increase their Christmas shopping budgets as a result.

But grow the game?

Both parties talked a lot about how the partnership was going to help grow the game of golf. The accompanying press release states one of the objectives of the deal is:

“Promoting golf at all levels in the countries we play in, including the UAE, where the DP World Tour will work closely with the current grassroots programme.

DP World has invested millions into the Tour since it first staged the $7.5 million Dubai World Tour Championship presented by DP World in 2009. The European Tour has been visiting the UAE since 1989, when Mark James won the Karl Litton Desert Classic. Yet, as the opening paragraphs of this blog show, the UAE has not produced one bona fide star to grace the world’s biggest tours. Not. One.

Those investing in golf in Dubai have a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully they’ll do just that with this new partnership. The cynic in me says leave grow the game initiatives to the R&A.

#JustSaying: “The only stats I care about are pay cheques and victories.” Greg Norman

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