Dubai: Scott Evans, now the Managing Director of Centurion Club in England, is no stranger in the golfing circles of Dubai. Gulf News caught up with the seasoned administrator, who was formerly with Dubai Creek Golf Yacht Club as the Centurion hosts the first event of LIV Golf Invitational Series next week.
Excerpts from the interview:
QUESTION: Where and how did your golf career begin?
SCOTT EVANS: I turned professional in 1986 at Whitecraigs Golf Club in Glasgow under the guidance of a tough old pro called Bill Watson, before heading off to Troon Golf & Country Club in Arizona and working alongside Dana Garmany at what was the beginning of Troon Golf. That experience helped set me on a path.
When and how did you come to Dubai and Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club?
It’s coming up to 30 years since I arrived in Dubai to help open Dubai Creek with the likes of Peter Downie, Campbell Elliott and Gary McGlinchey, I don’t feel old enough to say 30 years ago but these were great times in Dubai and I look back at it with great fondness. Still the same friends today.
How long were you in Dubai and what are your memories, reflections and what did you learn while you were in Dubai?
I was in Dubai for just over two years but I still go back every year, I’ve renewed my residency and plan to spend more time there. I love the buzz of the city and it is where I feel happiest. To see how it has evolved in those 30 years and the incredible infrastructure that has been built is living proof of what man can achieve in a lifetime - a modern wonder of the world.
Tell me about the Centurion Club project in Hertfordshire and how it all started?
I have to give my father the credit; he knew it was my dream to build my own course and before he passed away he put it so succinctly (and typically Scottish): “Son, life is short, you’re either going to talk about it or going to do it, get on with it!”
It was whilst working on a couple of projects in Spain in 2008 I knew the land was going to become available, any site had to be around the M25 with plenty of chimney pots for it to succeed. I knew I couldn’t do it all myself and that’s when I met my business partner Bert Pronk and his nephew Andre Hendriks (our Chairman) and at this point, we bought the site in 2010 and then purchased additional land from Sir Bernard Schreier in 2012. He was 92 at the time and a very wealthy man, he didn’t need to sell the land but I think he saw the determination in me that day and after spending two hours talking through his own time in Scotland and the Scottish work ethic, he simply held out his hand, agreed a price and wished me luck.
He has since passed away, but his grandson’s Alexei and Henry Schreier have honoured his wishes and the Club has secured an additional 90 acres that we hope to develop another nine holes on.
Tell us about the Centurion Club now?
The course opened in 2013 with the Clubhouse opening in 2016. The course is maturing well and despite a few doubters in the early years the membership model is working well and it has now over 750 members, a strong family membership and continues to grow year on year. The restaurant is proving popular and helps the Club reach profitability.
Centurion has hosted the ‘Golf Sixes,’ plans to host the Asian Tour this summer and now is hosting the first LIV Series and the Ladies Aramco event again. Tell us about the journey of the Centurion Club hosting professional golf tournaments and what are your expectations for this landmark tournament next week?
We’ve always liked the idea of being a little bit different and being at the forefront of change. We were the host of the first Golf Sixes event and we worked well with the European Tour (now DP World Tour), so we feel we made a great contribution to that tournament. We’re sad to see the Sixes event not happening now, it was a great initiative by Keith Pelley and his team, but it’s been a difficult few years for everyone after Covid.
The UL International Crown event was going to be exciting and would have been the first LPGA event this side of the Atlantic, but unfortunately that was cancelled as Covid hit. We hosted the Paddy Power event for the European Tour, which was the first sporting event in the UK after the pandemic, so we had to go through many new regulations and procedures to make the event happen. It was a test case for sport continuing in the UK and we were a proud host in a difficult moment.
We’re delighted to host the Aramco Team Series for a second time, we worked well with the Ladies’ European Tour and the sponsors last year. Aramco are a great sponsor and a pleasure to work with so we are thrilled to have them back in 2022 and for the next five years.
I was personally excited about hosting an Asian Tour event. To be able to bring an event to Europe, which would broaden the horizons for so many young professional golfers around the world, was long overdue. This however, has now been superseded by the LIV Golf Invitational and we must say thank you to Keith Pickard at Staley Hall for stepping in as host, it is much appreciated.
The LIV Golf Invitational is a landmark moment for the game and much talked about but I believe, a moment when golf punches through a ceiling and accelerates the growth of the game to more corners of the world. Golf cannot ignore this level of investment and I admire Yasir Al Rummayan and Majed Al Sorour at Golf Saudi for their passion and commitment to the game.