Gulf News chatted with Stuart McMurdo, Director of Golf at JA The Resort, recently to discuss his career to date in the golf industry and all his history with Dubai.
Tell us when and how you came to Dubai?
I first arrived in Dubai in 1989 as an 11-year-old, as my father was relocated from London by his employer GE as he supported the pioneer growth of electrical power generation in Jebel Ali. I started to learn golf at Emirates Golf Club as a junior member. When I left five years later, I was a scratch golfer and desperate to make it as a Tour player. I later returned to Dubai in January 2004 as the Golf Operations Manager at JA working for my initial coach James Williams, who was the Director of Golf at JA. After 14 great years learning from James I took over as Director of Golf in January 2018. I cannot thank him enough for all his support.
What are, in your opinion, the UAE golf industry challenges moving forward?
Having managed in golf for over 17 years, Dubai is, in my opinion, going to keep growing and the golf industry has huge potential to grow exponentially. In order to do this, there needs to be clear guidance to allow healthy competition but still protect the industry from destructive price wars. Golf courses have large overhead costs due to the climate we endure, we therefore need to focus on sustainability and getting more economic with our water generation solutions. We have excellent products and services in the golf industry already and sector-wide pricing needs to be discussed and assessed to make sure the sport and destination is ultimately competitive with neighbouring countries and other sports and leisure offerings who are following Dubai’s blueprint. I would like to see clubs working closer together as a destination rather than as separate entities, embracing new technology and focusing on the younger generation of future golfers.
What are your highlights of being in Dubai?
Dubai has always been a very special place for me. I spent many school years and living here with my family. I am here now with my amazing wife Jessica and our two kids. Dubai has also given me some amazing career development opportunities. The city seems to attract the best of the best and we at JA are very fortunate to play a small part in catering or supporting special events under our hotel and hospitality division. As early as my second month at JA, we hosted the Annual JA Challenge Match which was a charity event raising funds for children’s organisations in the UAE, played by eight of the best players in the world and I was immersed in the delivery of that event every year. Players such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Mark O’Meara, Thomas Bjorn and Jose Maria Olazabal and so many others all participated. On a personal level, I managed to fulfil a lifelong dream and qualify to play in the Dubai Desert Classic in 2006, won by Tiger Woods. In 2010 I added another string to my bow and became a part-time European Tour referee and due to the large number of professional golf tournaments in the UAE and the region I have been able to work on numerous high-profile tournaments gaining amazing experience. JA sponsors many European Tour and Ladies European Tour golfers ((including Rafa Cabrera Bello and Amy Boulden) and I have been fortunate to work alongside their teams especially with JA’s strong relationship with the Dubai Desert Classic, managing hospitality chalets and running events. Being associated with these players I was lucky enough to visit The Masters in 2018, which was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any golf nut, such as myself.