Leaders from the golf, sport and business worlds came together yesterday at the award-winning Saadiyat Beach Golf Club to join tournament host, course-designer, sporting icon and Grand Slam champion Gary Player, for the Gary Player Invitational, in support of the Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs (ZHO).
Held under the patronage of the His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Cabinet Member and Minister of State for Tolerance, and in association with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the UAE stop of the world’s leading charity golf series saw a field of 72 golf pros and amateur teammates tee off to raise funds for The Player Foundation, which, to date has raised more than $64 million worldwide. British Masters champion Eddie Pepperell’s team took top honours and along with the win, took home the event series’ coveted baobab tree trophies.
This year’s event, held during the UAE Year of Tolerance, also included both a UAE Tolerance Reception, hosted at the Louvre Abu Dhabi on 12 January as well as an Inclusivity Breakfast that saw Gary Player, and a panel, including golfers Thomas Bjorn, Shubhankar Sharma and Cheyenne Woods, and representatives from the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and sponsor Abu Dhabi Ports discuss inclusivity and diversity in sport. Young men and women from both the event beneficiary, ZHO, as well as the Special Olympics UAE Golf team also enjoyed special clinics with Gary Player and other pros prior to the event.
“It always gives me great joy to visit Abu Dhabi but even more so in this UAE Year of Tolerance,” said tournament host Gary Player. “The leadership of the UAE continues to set an example; championing acceptance and tolerance and we have been overwhelmed once again with the generous spirit of the Abu Dhabi community.”
“The Gary Player Invitational is a benchmark in charity tournaments in the UAE – it demonstrates what can be achieved when people come together in the spirit of charity and camaraderie. The support it has provided Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs cannot be overstated. It is an embodiment of the spirit of sportsmanship, giving and generosity that is the hallmark of the UAE this year, and every year,” said His Excellency Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
Along with winner Eddie Pepperell and Inclusivity Breakfast panelists Ryder Cup Captain, Thomas Bjorn; Ladies European Tour professional, Cheyenne Woods; and winner of the Maybank Championship and Joburg Open and 2018 European Tour’s Rookie of The Year, Shubhankar Sharma, Gary Player was also joined in the field by a constellation of golfing stars including the reigning champion of the Indian Open, BMW International Open and Made in Denmark, Matt Wallace, and Ladies European Tour pros Camilla Lennarth, Carly Booth and Amy Boulden as well as the winner of the inaugural Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, Beth Allen.
Representing the amateurs was football great Trevor Steven and former Formula 1 driver, Heikki Kovalainen along with stalwarts from the UAE business community including key sponsors and supporters: Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Aldar, Abu Dhabi Ports, Al Masaood, Rolex, SAP and the Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort.
“The leadership of the UAE has built and nurtured a culture of excellence and generosity here that is recognized around the world and we are grateful to the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and all our sponsors for supporting the event year after year with passion and determination,” added Marc Player CEO of Black Knight International and Founder of the Gary Player Invitational series.
Along with the pro-am tournament at the award-winning, Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, the event also included a traditional post-event South African braai.