| In­ter­view

Louie Chan talks to the Four-time Ma­jor win­ner and Pres­i­dent’s Cup Cap­tain at the Grand Open­ing of Royal Greens Golf and Coun­try Club in Saudi Ara­bia.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Louie Chan

Four-time Ma­jor win­ner and Pres­i­dent’s Cup Cap­tain Ernie Els talks ex­clu­sively to HK Golfer.

Louie Chan: How are you en­joy­ing your first time in Saudi Ara­bia?

Ernie Els: Yeah, my first time to Saudi Ara­bia. I was re­ally ex­cited to get the call to come here. I’ve heard of King Ab­dulla Eco­nomic City through the years now, and I was keen to come and see what they have done. I wouldn’t say I’m sur­prised, but I’m de­lighted I came be­cause I re­ally think they got it right. The golf course is re­ally good. They have a great fa­cil­ity here at Royal Greens. It’s a won­der­ful spot. I’m glad I came.

LC: Tell us a lit­tle bit about what you think of some of the sig­na­ture holes, the 15th and 16th.

EE: You start out here at the club­house, and you play a bit of desert golf, so to speak, with quite a few wa­ter haz­ards. They have a great bal­ance through the course – right to lefts and left to rights – but the real treat is when you get out to 16. The beau­ti­ful 16th hole on the Red Sea. You think you’re on some is­land some­where in the Caribbean with the wa­ter­colour and the con­trast. It’s won­der­ful, and it’s a pretty tricky hole. So, the back nine is re­ally pic­turesque but so is the whole of golf course. You don’t see too many holes where you go out to the ocean, so I thought that [the 16th] was a great ad­di­tion to the course.

LC: You have ob­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of ex­cel­lent cham­pi­onship golf courses around the world, how do you feel this will stack up against other Euro­pean Tour venues next year?

EE: Well, I think this one will be one of the best in the Mid­dle East. I’ve played most of the courses in the Mid­dle East from Dubai to Qatar to Abu Dhabi. I haven’t played Oman, but this golf course will be one of the play­ers’ favourites. The greens can be quite tricky, as you can see here, the wind picks up in the af­ter­noon which will make the scor­ing quite tough. But it is a fun golf course. If you play prop­erly, I think you can make some birdies and there are enough el­e­ments out there that will keep the guys hon­est. Your wind play will have to be there, and your course man­age­ment has to be there. Won­der­ful golf course, I’m look­ing for­ward to play­ing it.

LC: How im­por­tant is it for the game of golf for new re­gions, like Saudi Ara­bia, to em­brace the sport and help it to grow?

EE: This event is not only go­ing to be great for the Euro­pean Tour, but it will great for world golf. We need places where we can grow the game, where we can start from grass root lev­els and in­tro­duce the game to new mar­kets, and this is an en­tirely un­touched mar­ket through the his­tory of Saudi Ara­bia. This will be the in­au­gu­ral

event and to bring world-class play­ers here, to Royal Greens in Saudi Ara­bia, is just go­ing to be a game-changer. This fa­cil­ity is won­der­ful, and they are go­ing build schools here, they’re go­ing to build hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties, ho­tels – it’s go­ing to be an ab­so­lute un­be­liev­able city and hav­ing golf as your main sport here. For the kids to grow up around the game, is go­ing to be so im­por­tant and I won’t be sur­prised when we see some world class play­ers in the near-fu­ture.

LC: Your per­for­mance academy is an es­sen­tial part of your brand. The na­tional team will have ac­cess to these fa­cil­i­ties as part of the agree­ment be­tween Royal Greens and the Saudi Golf Fed­er­a­tion. How im­por­tant is it for that young tal­ent com­ing through to give them ac­cess to a fa­cil­ity like this.

EE: I’ve al­ways said, we’re a small coun­try in South Africa, but we have pro­duced out­stand­ing golfers for a very long time. When you have fa­cil­i­ties, and you have weather, you are al­ready ahead of the game in a lot of ar­eas. You just have to look at Europe; you can only play in some places there for only 4-6 months of the year. So here you have year-round weather, you have an un­be­liev­able fa­cil­ity here at Royal Greens, at this academy, and if you have more of these fa­cil­i­ties go up around this area, with the school­ing in place here - be­fore golf or after golf the kids can come and play and prac­tice golf – it is just the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment to pro­duce world-class golfers.

LC: We’re look­ing for­ward to a mar­quee, a land­mark, Pres­i­dents Cup with your­self and Tiger as cap­tains. Do you think that will bring an added el­e­ment, given both of your pro­files, to the Pres­i­dents Cup?

EE: I don’t know. I have al­ways en­joyed the Pres­i­dents Cup, com­pet­ing in it. I feel I want to make some changes from the run up into the cup. Al­ready I can get four picks go­ing into the week. We’ve made some changes al­ready, and I want to try and have a blue­print go­ing for­ward for the next guys, re­ally change things up and put things in place where the next cap­tain can keep fol­low­ing the blue­print. It’s a cru­cial time for my­self and the team to change things up, to be re­ally com­pet­i­tive and win this Pres­i­dents Cup in Aus­tralia, which is a great venue for us. But Tiger’s got an un­be­liev­able team, and he’s been an un­be­liev­able player, and I think the two of us, we’ve had a bit of his­tory in the Pres­i­dents Cup. I think we will bring an ex­tra el­e­ment to the matches and hope­fully make it re­ally ex­cit­ing.

Ernie Els gives a golf­ing demon­stra­tion to lo­cal school chil­dren at Royal Greens Golf

and Coun­try Club

The stun­ning 16th hole of Royal Greens Golf

and Coun­try Club

From left to right: Fahd Al-Rasheed, Group Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of Emaar the Eco­nomic City (EEC), Ernie Els, His Ex­cel­lency Yasir bin Oth­man Al-Ru­mayyan and Ma­jed Sorour, CEO of Saudi Golf Fed­er­a­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.