The Dubai Desert Classic had a whole new look this week at the Emirates Golf Club as Viktor Hovland helped usher in a new era for a tournament steeped in history.
As the Norwegian was holing out to win title amid lengthening shadows and fading light on the first play-off hole over veteran Richard Bland on Sunday, the future of the competition was looking bright and in safe hands thanks to new sponsor, Slync.io.
- Rory McIlroy within touching distance of elusive DP World Tour title after near miss at Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic
- Look: Viktor Hovland carves a piece of history at Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic
- Rafa Cabrera Bello: Proud of my achievements in UAE so far this season
- Look: Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic - How they finished at Emirates Golf Club
As part of the newly rebranded DP World Tour and now part of the prestigious Rolex Series, the Dubai Desert Classic title and the winner’s share of the $8 million purse went to Hovland in dramatic fashion.
But, behind the scenes, there was a lot more going on to ensure the whole operation — from fan experience to technology and logistics — was a flying success.
Logistics is probably the most appropriate word as Slync.io — one of the world’s leading logistics technology companies that combines industry expertise, software solutions and digital platforms to solve the biggest challenges in global logistics — have come on board as chief sponsor of the competition.
As the drama unfolded on Sunday, Chris Kirchner, CEO, Chairman and co-founder of Slync, took time out to speak to Gulf News about the rapid developments and big plans for the future.
“It all happened in a couple of phases,” he told Gulf News on the sidelines of the 18th green of the Majlis Course on Sunday. “We got into golf recently with our first player endorsements and I enjoy the game personally on an amateur level and wanted to get into the game on a sponsorship level and be part of the community. That was step one, and then — through some casual conversations about previous sponsors pulling out and if the Dubai Desert Classic would be something of interest to us or even worth a conversation. It really only became more concrete around the Masters in April last year, when we discovered this would become a Rolex Series event — one of the elite events on the DP World Tour.
“Obviously, this has been a massive event on the then European Tour for years but now it is in the very top level where it belongs, with a huge purse and stature,’ Kirchner added. “For us strategically, this is a very important region through the customer base here and bringing full-time employees here. It is a huge linchpin in global supply chains for goods via ocean, air and rail and we wanted to be a part of that mix and insert ourselves into that ecosystem. From a business perspective it made sense.”
It certainly a whirlwind time as Chris and Slync step into new territory.
“It is funny when I talk about Slync and the dreams I had — this is not one that I saw.” Kirchner laughed. “This week is exciting, new and somewhat surreal. It is a dream come true in that fashion but also for the company it has been a massive success. It still kinda hasn’t sunk in yet. I got off the plane on Monday and had a shower, and went into six days of non-stop events. Maybe next week it will set in but it has been an amazing experience.
“The feedback from the players has been great. One of the main things we wanted to address was the player and caddie experience, and one of the reactions we get back from the likes of Rory (McIlroy), Tommy (Fleetwood), and Paul (Casey) and all the guys is the inclusion. One of the things we want to do is thank them for allowing us to be part of it and make sure that this is one of the weeks they circle on their calendar and say: ‘Hey, I’m in Dubai.’ I think we have achieved it.”
Timing is everything in logistics — and sport — and, with the Desert Classic’s elevation, the Tour’s rebranding and the working week allowing golf to now finish on a weekend Sunday rather than a working day in the UAE, it all meant the stars aligned for Kirchner.
“As I typically say of my golf game, it is better to be lucky than good,” he explained. “And that is one of the things that fell in our favour. The atmosphere is amazing and the best events embrace and embody the city they are based in and this enclosure around the ninth and 18th holes and everything beyond with the food and entertainment — this feels like Dubai. You can relax, watch the game from a day bed, stroll around and enjoy the weather. That’s what this is, with the atmosphere and the crowd. It has all come together in a way better than I could imagine.”
With Slync already committed to a five-year project with the Dubai Desert Classic, Kirchner has no intentions of stopping ‘a beautiful friendship’ there.
“I always say this is ‘at least’ five years,” he said. “That is what we are committed to and we will talk longer further down the road. But right now we are focused on year one and making this what we envisioned. If anything this is better. We have set new expectations for this event and starting this week we will go through the feedback and go through the list of all the things to make it even better next year. There is already a list — things people don’t see behind the scenes to work the fan experience and so on. It is an extensive list. That is how we are as a company. We are not overly picky, but even when we do a good job, there are things we want to do better. If we are going to be the best we can be, that is crucial.”
Even this time around Kirchner already harboured ambitions to deliver an experience akin to that of the Formula One in Abu Dhabi. “I wanted DJs and a big party, but with Covid and a few uncertainties we didn’t want to promise something and then have to bring it back. So we just focused on the tournament and make that better and then go on to bigger and better things year on year. That is only fair to the fans. We will add layers every year and make this something the city is proud of. It is such a destination, my whole family is here, skiing, shopping, sightseeing and it is such a special place and we are delighted to help move it forward, both as an event and with Dubai as a vacation and tourist destination.”