09 Nov 2017

Ayla Golf Club is here to stay on the global stage

By Mohamed Suleman 

Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan has arrived on the professional golf scene in a big way. Barely a year after it opened its doors, the stunning Greg Norman-designed seafront layout has successfully hosted the country’s first ever professional golf event.

Close to 60 players from the MENA Tour descended on Ayla Golf Club in the first week of October for the inaugural Ayla Golf Championship.

In the end, it was Jamie Elson who won the championship in a tense play-off, holing a four-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole to beat fellow Englishman Luke Joy.

The final round also saw Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre fire a sizzling nine-under 64 to set a new course record, eclipsing the 67 that Sweden’s Henric Sturehed carded earlier in the week.

Chris White, Director of Operations at Ayla, couldn’t be happier with how the club’s big week unfolded both on and off the course.

“It was always Ayla’s intent to deliver something as close to a full week on tour as possible and we certainly didn’t disappoint,” says White.

“I think it was a resounding success all the way from getting the players on a chartered aircraft from Dubai to Aqaba to making them experience the best hospitality Jordan has to offer.”

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, Chairman of the MENA Tour, believes the decision to grant Ayla Golf Club an event hardly a year after it opened to the public was well and truly justified.

“The newest MENA Tour destination in Jordan delivered another glowing example of the winds of change blowing across the region where new courses and new stars are hovering on the horizon,” Buamaim says.

“Golf as a sport has immense potential for growth in the region and the inaugural Jordan’s Ayla Golf Championship was a major step forward in raising the Jordanian golf bar while giving an extra fillip to tourism in a country rich in culture and steeped in history.

“With fantastic players, superb organisation, warm Jordanian hospitality and a first-class golf facility, it was an exciting week for many reason and it surpassed all of our expectations.”

The championship was headlined by several big names but none bigger than 2011 Open Championship winner Darren Clarke, who is also a patron of the MENA Tour.

The Irishman is of the opinion that the hosting of such a well run event at a fabulous new venue bodes extremely well for the future of golf in Jordan.

“I was absolutely delighted to visit and play in Jordan,” said Clarke, who opted to skip the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland in favour of teeing it up in the Ayla Golf Championship.

“It was a great week and I have no doubt that events like this will provide a massive boost for golf in Jordan not just for tourism, but also for the development of junior and amateur golfers in the country. With a population of close to 400 million, golf in the region certainly has the potential to grow even bigger.”

Clarke stated his belief that the Ayla Golf Club can compete with any major golfing destination around the world.

“The course is just magnificent,” he said. “It’s easily one of the best I have played in recent years and a large part of that is because it presented a fair test to the players all week.”

With the club’s debut in to the world of professional golf done and dusted, White and his team are already setting their sights on even bigger and better things going forward.

“Ayla Golf Club has big ambitions for an active events calendar in the future and this is just the first step towards achieving that goal.

“The MENA Tour is the perfect event to ‘test the water’. We have received some wonderful support from private sector sponsorship who too want to engage in this growth. European Tour, Ladies European Tour, European Senior Tour and exhibitions are all on the table being discussed. I don’t doubt it will happen at some point – ‘The Middle East Quartet’ of Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Dubai and Jordan would be a nice winter series!”

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