Amy Boulden
Amy Boulden Image Credit: Organiser

Dubai: Changing both Ladies European Tour golf events in the UAE to Pro Ams will help a ‘struggling’ sport, according to Welsh professional female golfer Amy Boulden.

Both the Omega Dubai Ladies Classic and the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi have switched from their usual season-ending slots in November and December — skipping 2018 — to instead re-emerge from January 10-12 in Abu Dhabi and May 1-3 in Dubai.

The two events will also become three-round Pro Ams with Abu Dhabi being played the week before the men’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and Dubai turning into a day-night tournament called the Moonlight Classic, played over the floodlit Faldo Course instead of the usual Majlis Course, at Emirates Golf Club.

There had been fears that allowing amateurs into these tournaments would decrease the prestige of professional events, but LET player Boulden welcomed the move. “The Ladies European Tour has been struggling so we need any event we can get,” she said on the sidelines of the recent David Leadbetter Academy launch at Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa.

“The UAE is probably a good place to have Pro Am formats because there’s so much money over here.

“For us, to get the chance to play with amateurs and business people, and for them to have the chance to watch us up close, may make them want to put some money into the event.

“Obviously that’s the way organisers are thinking. Sometimes people don’t realise how good the women’s game is until they see it and that could be their thought process.

“They have done Pro Am formats in the past, the Scottish Open used to be Pro Am until the LPGA took it over, but that was always a really successful event.

”I don’t think we will be playing with people that don’t have a handicap or anything like that. Everybody is going to be to able score or be able to pick the ball up, so I don’t think that’s going to be an issue, especially as we are going to be focusing on our own games anyway.

“Playing with amateurs who could possibly become sponsors can only be a good thing. The Scottish Open was a success. I don’t think it’s the future or that we are going to do it for every event, but to try and get more sponsors would be a good idea.”

Despite expressing some reservations at how players would adapt to night golf, Boulden said the changes would attract attention. “It’s something a little bit different that will create a buzz and get people talking, and that’s what women’s golf needs.”

She expressed the same about invites being given to social-media sensations renowned more for their followers than their game, but warned quotas of pros, amateurs and Instagram invites should remain fair and balanced.

Dubai decided to switch to May because its December slot clashed with the festive exodus. They also didn’t see much benefit in being the season-ender and wanted to show how long the golfing season was is in Dubai beyond winter.

Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, wanted to package and promote their events in closer unison with the Gary Player Invitational on January 13 and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship from January 16-19.