Gulf News caught up with the recently appointed General Manager, Golf at ProSports International, 36-year-old Stuart Taylor, to discuss his role and his views on the local and regional golf scene.
Tell us about your background and how you arrived in Dubai?
Stuart: I have been in Dubai for 12 years and joined ProSports International 11 years ago. I originally entered the golf industry at The Island Golf Club in Dublin, where I was an assistant golf pro, did all my PGA training and gained my PGA qualifications. My various roles within ProSports International began soon after arriving in Dubai.
I must take this opportunity to thank all the senior management and owners of ProSports International for all their personal and professional support during my time here.
Tell us more about ProSports International?
ProSports International is one of the leading regional distributors of golf equipment and apparel, and our territories are mainly the Middle East and Mauritius. The leading brands under our ProSports International portfolio include Titleist, Footjoy, Ping, Greg Norman, Peter Millar and Ralph Lauren.
We also operate and manage the pro shops — including a professional custom-fit and repair service — at Emirates Golf Club, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Jumeirah Golf Estates, The Els Club, Dubai Hills Golf Club, Arabian Ranches Golf Club, Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club, as well in Qatar at both Doha Golf Club and Education City Golf Club. We are very excited to announce that we are taking over pro shop responsibilities at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from September.
We are the retail operators for Topgolf at Emirates Golf Club and we have also transitioned to off-course retail at our superstore in Dubai as well as online. Our non-golf activities in the ProSport International family are focused on rugby through Gilbert and Wilson for tennis as well as being merchandisers and corporate apparel partners for events such as the Emirates Dubai Rugby Sevens, the DP World Tour Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
What are your short-term and long-term goals at ProSports International?
My role will be to continue to develop our existing relationships with partners and increase my profile in the industry and to explore new territories and new business by widening our reach for ProSports International. To be better at distribution and retail is a constant mantra we instill daily through training internally with all our staff.
We are excited to see and hear all the news of the growth of the game in Saudi Arabia and we are obviously already supporting their existing golfing facilities from our headquarters in Dubai, but as this new market grows, we will be prepared to invest in this market at the right time, at the right place with the right partners.
Our model at ProSports International is to work with the golf clubs and all our partners and to provide sales channels through memberships of golf clubs, local and international visitor merchandising, corporate business (golf and otherwise), as well as to enhance our off-course offering both in-store and online.
We are confident we have all markets covered, we just need to further establish our presence and platforms in all areas moving forward and encourage new revenue streams. We will not be complacent in such a competitive market.
What about your personal goals?
On a personal note, having been in the UAE for over a decade, I would like to see the industry working together more for the benefit of the growth of the game. I would very much like to help and encourage education for all within the golf industry, whether encouraging existing people employed in the UAE golf industry to grow as well as educating the casual golfer to take up the game or take it more seriously.
Topgolf has significantly given golf in the UAE a fresh and appealing look and encouraging the game to be more accessible. A collaborative industry approach, involving clubs, teaching pros, managements and industry employees all round, on how collectively ensure these occasional golfers are channelled and kept within the more structured golfing ecosystem and golfing ladder, to be classified as a registered golfer and embraced within the pyramid of golf in a game that must be more inclusive — irrespective of age, sex, nationality or ability, with the underlying benefit of having fun within the game and promoting health and wellness.
We have such a variety of golf facilities here in the UAE and the region available all year round, to accommodate all golfers to go as far as they like.
I am a huge supporter of junior golf which is generally strong at individual golf clubs at the introduction group level in this part of the world, which ProSports International encourages through various initiatives. It would be nice to see more of a structured transition from junior programmes to junior membership of golf clubs, but that has always been a unique challenge in such a transient society for the ex-pats.
What are your thoughts on the state of the golf industry in this part of the world?
I started as a golf club fitter a decade or so ago and it is exciting to see me now, as a GM, with nine professionals working for and with me alongside a staff of around 75.
What I would like to see encouraged is more of a career structure of home talent, both Emiratis and ex-pats here and in the region to get more of an internship model we see in so many countries around the world. This would, in my opinion, help the industry grow organically for the benefit of all.