16 Jul 2018

Jordan Mixed Masters presented by Ayla is another huge feather in cap for Middle East golf

The Middle East is set to lead the way in golfing innovation when the inaugural Jordan Mixed Masters, presented by Ayla takes place from April 4-6 next year.

 

The recently announced event is a ‘first-of-its-kind’ and will feature a mix of European golf legends, female stars and the next generation of golfers who will go up against each other at Ayla Golf Club, a premier golf destination on in Jordan.

In a first for world golf, spectators will be treated to witnessing the stars of the European Challenge Tour, Ladies European Tour and Staysure Tour in the new co-sanctioned individual strokeplay event at one of the Middle East’s most exciting up and coming developments on the stunning Aqaba coastline.

The field will consist of 123 players – 40 from each Tour and one leading amateur from the men’s ladies’ and over-50’s games – who will compete against each other in a single, mixed field. 

Members from the three Tours will tee off from different yardages, but will compete in a single competition. The three-day event will see the field cut to 60 for the final day’s play, competing for the grand prize. The leading players from the other two tours will also receive a special accolade.

The concept was the brainchild of Ayla’s Director of Operations Chris White, a man who has been part of the Middle East golf scene since 1999 when he came over from the UK as Director of Golf at Abu Dhabi Golf Club before taking up roles as General Manager at Al Hamra GC in Ras Al Khaimah and Yas Links in Abu Dhabi en-route to his current position in Jordan. 

We caught up with White to get his thoughts on the initiative. 

Bringing together three different Tour’s for one single tournament has never been done before. Give us your thoughts on being a part of such a groundbreaking initiative? 

Chris White: I’m very fortunate to have been involved in the golf industry for the past 25 years or more and have been responsible at different stages for planning, constructing, opening and operating some world-class venues.

In almost all of these operations there has been the desire to grow the game and expose the destination to larger audiences – whether that was through events and activations catering to the domestic or International markets for both professionals and amateurs.

European Challenge Tour, Staysure Tour, MENA Tour, Celebrity Invitational, and World Amateur events – I have been fortunate to have operated all.

But I always wanted to do something unique and golf presented a platform to do that.

Golf is unique in the sense that four players of very different ages, abilities and genders can go out and play a competitive game against each other – either through handicap, length of course being played or even equipment being used (you could take the driver away from one player in a group of four).

Equality and equal rights seems to have been in the headlines in many sectors of late and rightly so but the opportunity for mixed gender professional sports persons to compete ‘evenly’ against each other has always been a challenge. That being said Billy Jean King challenged Bobby Riggs to a tennis match in 1973 which captivated global audiences and whilst there have been golf team events involving both men and women there hasn’t been a direct individual event.

(l) Ayla’s Director of Operations Chris White (r) Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour Dubai Office pictured in Dubai.

Why is Ayla so perfect for this type of event?

CW: Ayla Oasis is an amazing mixed use development that in truth offers something to all men, women young and old and we basically thought how about doing an event that may just capture the attention of all – hence the three tour Jordan Mixed Masters was born.

Ayla is very fortunate to have an amazingly visionary ownership and a supportive board – truthfully selling the concept wasn’t required. We collectively sat down worked backwards from what we wanted to achieve in hosting an event and built the tournament concept around that end goal.

What does Ayla and Aqaba hope to get out of the event? 

CW: The 2019 Jordan Mixed Masters is fundamentally about three things:

Firstly, we of course want to show off this most wonderful facility – a world class golf course designed by Greg Norman nestled beneath a mountain range and bordering the red sea makes the setting simply stunning, coupled with the most luxurious 286 room Hyatt Regency Hotel there is not a better venue for a play and stay break. 

Secondly, we wanted to do something different and a kind of ‘golf first’. Golf is exploring many new initiatives and events and we are extremely proud of our contribution to that cause. It will genuinely be super exciting to see which tour and individual fares best.

Thirdly, the destination and hospitality – The City of Aqaba sits on the Red sea with its amazing diving opportunities, the world heritage site of Petra is a mere 90 minutes away and the awe-inspiring Wadi Rum landscape just 40 minutes away – there is so much to showcase. Sadly, and slightly unfairly, at this current time Jordan is perceived by its location and events that are going on around it. The reality is, the country is one of the most supportive and peaceful nations with a global reputation for hosting displaced migrants and hospitality – Jordanians go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and that is the intent of next year’s event for all involved.

Will such events grow the game of golf in Jordan?

CW: Yes I believe they will, not directly and immeasurably but definitely subtly and gradually. Golf is brand new, literally brand new to Aqaba. We have been aggressive in our junior campaigns, we have introduced Ayla residents to the sport, and we are getting a lot more interest in corporate team building golf activities. 

Any opportunity that generates media exposure and interest – that then needs to be converted into a seven iron on the range or golf delivered as a sports lesson in a local school and we are doing all we can to achieve that, but fundamentally the Jordan Mixed Masters is about letting the region and the world know what a fabulous leisure offering we have.

Philip Golding of the Staysure Tour and, Ladies European Tour player Georgia Hall could face off in the groundbreaking Jordan Mixed Masters.

Will any other initiatives run alongside the Jordan Mixed Masters?

CW: There is a lot planned to run in parallel with the golf event and it is these ‘of course’ activities that will attract sponsors and an audience. Ayla has one of the finest floodlit par 3 courses you could play so definitely there will be some activation there.

With the opening of the Hyatt Regency and our amazing cable wake park and luxury beach club we will be hosting guests in all locations and of course the neighboring historical sites have to be factored in.

Ayla Ayla

Tell us a little about the event specifically and what do you think the players will enjoy about the course.

CW: We are currently collecting significant data from the three tour player categories. The below is not at this stage totally accurate and is still being worked on and is also not in any way meant as a discriminatory remark but a pure fact:

European Challenge Tour Players carry their drivers on average 275 yards and have average drives close to 290 yards.

European Staysure Senior Tour Players carry their drives on average 260 yards and have an average drive close to 275 yards

European Ladies Tour Players carry their drives on average 250 yards and have an average drive close to 265yards

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