Gulf News caught up with 43 year-old Stuart McMurdo, the newly appointed Director of Sports at JA The Resort, Jebel Ali, Dubai.
Gulf News: Stuart, welcome, tell us about when you first came to Dubai and when you first connected with golf?
Stuart: I first came over to Dubai in 1989 as an 11 year-old with my parents through my father’s work. I studied at Dubai College, where golf was a school activity and as a family we joined Emirates Golf Club. This is where I first met my coach, who became a good friend and then my future boss at JA The Resort, James Williams.
Gulf News: How did you get into the business of golf?
Stuart: I became a scratch golfer and golf has always been part of my life. I realized I would not earn a good living playing the game, so I looked to it becoming a career after finishing all my education.
I used all my historical Dubai connections and in 2004 began working at JA The Resort for James Williams.
Gulf News: Tell us about your new role?
Stuart: I have recently been promoted from Director of Golf to Director of Sports - JA The Resort, Jebel Ali, Dubai.
I am responsible for the six sport divisions of the JA The Resort, Jebel Ali, involving golf, cricket, football, equestrian centre, tennis academy, padel tennis, shooting club and club memberships.
It is now time to bring all these departments and sports under one entity, to maximise collaboration and that is my new role taking it to the next level, aligned with the primary objective of creating more room nights for JA The Resort, particularly targeting international visitors.
Gulf News: Tell us about your partnerships with top sports stars in your time at JA The Resort.
Stuart: Over the years we have been involved with sponsoring former Ryder Cupper and Dubai Desert Classic champion Rafa Cabrera Bello, the Leadbetter Academy and LET Pros: Amy Boulden and Olivia Cowen. This has been a fun experience and something we may look to expand into other sports.
Gulf News: Tell us about how you have seen Dubai grow over the years?
Stuart: The growth of golf in Dubai has mirrored the growth of Dubai.
In 1989 Emirates Golf Club was the only game in town and all our lives around the club and all its activities.
Dubai has always had great facilities all round, including golf, and with some special hotels and infrastructure, Dubai Tourism has laid the foundations for this growth. Dubai is the perfect destination for international golfers and at JA The Resort we intend to invest more into this golf space.
Gulf News: What is the future for JA The Resort and sport?
Stuart: The future of JA The Resort will involve bigger international groups visiting for all sports.
We already host international football teams, ICC Cricket Teams and IPL Teams at JA The Resort when they are in town.
We will now look at new opportunities in this sports team specialist space and sports holiday destination field.
Gulf News: Tell us about golf at JA The Resort and especially your long standing association with the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic?
Stuart: Our nine-hole golf course, designed by UAE based golf course designer Peter Harradine, opened in 1998, and at the time, it was only the third golf course in Dubai. We have always been loyal supporters of the Dubai Desert Classic for rooms and hospitality catering and for a long time we hosted the Jebel Ali Challenge Match, with the top players playing in a curtain raiser for the tournament week on the Tuesday. Over 2,000 invited guests attended and there was always a charity element for the event that was televised and broadcast around the world in a highlight TV package.
Players like: Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie, Thomas Bjorn, Justin Leonard, Retief Goosen, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie and so many others have all played over our nine-hole course at JA The Resort.
Gulf News: I hear you have played in the Dubai Desert Classic, tell us about that experience?
Stuart: It is one of the highlights of my time in Dubai. I qualified as an Amateur to play in the 2006 Dubai Desert Classic won by Tiger Woods. The organisers really looked after me, my locker was next to Tiger’s and I learned so much, especially about myself, and, I met so many players. It was a great one-off experience.