As Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club prepares to host the first European Senior Tour event to be played in the emirate, the legends of the game are limbering up for next month’s Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq.
Ireland’s Des Smyth, an eight-time winner on the European Tour and a five-times winner on the Senior Tour, has been back in action in the sunshine of Barbados, playing in a Pro-Am in readiness for the big event on March 16-18.
Smyth held the record as the oldest winner on the European Tour at the age of 48 years and 34 days when he won the Madeira Island Open during his 28th consecutive season on the European Tour in 2001, until Miguel Angel Jimenez took the title from him.
The Ryder Cup stalwart, who played in the 1979 and 1981 Ryder Cup, and was a Vice-Captain to Paul McGinley in the 2014 victory at Gleneagles, has been a frequent visitor to the Middle East for many years, winning the Arcapita Senior Tour Championship at The Royal Golf Club in Bahrain in 2005.
Smyth was one of four European Senior Tour players who played in the Sharjah Senior Invitational Pro-Am presented by Shurooq last March, along with Paul Broadhurst, Ronan Rafferty and Malcolm Mackenzie.
“It was great fun to play in the curtain-raiser for the main event last year and it was good to support a Senior Tour event in the UAE again,” he said.
“This is the first time the European Senior Tour has played an event on a 9-hole course but I found it an excellent layout and with the extra teeing ground it will be an interesting tournament with such a variety of tee boxes. We certainly had lot of fun with the amateurs and they seemed to enjoy the experience. I know that my fellow Pros, Paul, Ronan and Malcolm are looking forward to renewing those friendships next month.
“Over the years, since I’ve been coming here, the UAE has become a golfer’s paradise and it’s remarkable how much the game of golf has developed in the region. The whole area has become a hub for international golf. The Pro-Ams are a lot of fun and I feel that the senior pros are able interact with the amateurs to give a lot more back than the regular tour players.
“I believe there has been healthy competition in the qualifiers for the National Final, which takes place at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club on February 12 where the top three will qualify to play in the first two days of the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters Pro-Ams. I would certainly encourage senior amateurs to get involved. They are in for a great experience and a lot of fun. Senior Tour Pros know how to enjoy a day out on the golf course and are always happy to help players with their teaching expertise and share their long career experiences with them.
“This is a huge step forward for Sharjah and it would be a wonderful scenario if it were to lead to two or three consecutive Senior Tour events in the Middle East. I think it could revitalise the European Senior Tour. I can’t wait to tee off in Sharjah and get the ball rolling.”
The Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq takes place at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club from March 16-18