Dubai: A first-of-its-kind mixed golf masters involving European Ladies, Challenge and Senior Tour players will be held at Jordan’s Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba from April 4-6, it was announced in Dubai on Wednesday.
The same venue will also separately play host to the penultimate round of this year’s Challenge Tour ‘Road to Ras Al Khaimah’ from October 24 to 27.
Having started-off hosting a Mena Tour event in 2016, Chris White, director of operations at Ayla, said the end goal would be to eventually get a tournament slot on the European Tour proper to further drive tourism.
“I think everybody has that goal,” he said. “But we have a responsibility as a venue to showcase that type of event in the right way.
“To have a few hundred spectators at a European Tour event doesn’t do it justice. We need thousands and until we get to that critical mass, there are alternative formulas.
“The success of this could actually mean we introduce the European Tour into it by 2020 or 2021.
“Golf needs innovation, I hate to say it’s in decline but there are stats that say it is. The problem with golf is it takes time and attention. But I think we have a concept and an event that caters to all audiences and all markets.”
A field of 123 players will see 40 from each Tour and three amateurs from each division compete against each other in a single, mixed field, playing off different pins, for a shared prize purse of $395,000 (Dh1.4 million).
White didn’t rule out eventually bringing the main European Tour into the fray with a breakdown of 25 players each from all four tours in the future. He also said that it was a massive statement for equality not just in the region but also globally, with nothing having been done like this to the same competitive standard.
“The timing of this is important,” added White. “Equality should be the norm. In sport, it is hard for everyone to compete against each other on a level-playing field, but in golf you can.
“It’s a huge opportunity for a global brand to have an association with sport, with equal opportunity, open to all, mixed gender events, and a huge opportunity for x bank to partner with equal opportunity or this automotive company to drive the future with a mixed sex event,” he added with an eye on now having to find sponsorship.
Nick Tarratt, director of the European Tour’s Dubai Office, said: “Who knows, maybe we can take this model elsewhere around the world.
“In Saudi Arabia women have just started driving, how pioneering is that? And for Chris to have established a tournament [in neighbouring Jordan] where ladies are equal is impressive on a world scene, not just a golf scene.”
The Jordan Mixed Masters will be an Order of Merit event for the European Ladies Tour and the Senior Tour but not the Challenge Tour.