Golfers, entertainers and fans laud Saudi International as ‘wonderful experience’

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: Golfers, entertainers and visitors to the second Saudi International golf tournament have hailed the event, which attracted more than 25,000 fans, as a “wonderful experience.”

King Abdullah Economic City’s (KAEC) Royal Greens Golf and Country Club played host as spectators descended on the Red Sea coastal course to watch one of the European Tour’s strongest fields battle it out over four days.

For many it was their first foray into the sport, and as well as being able to see top players such as world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, visitors also attended concerts involving DJs Zedd, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, and Canadian singer Bryan Adams.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who won the competition by beating defending champion and US powerhouse Dustin Johnson by two shots, said he had loved his time in the Kingdom.

“The week really exceeded my expectations on a lot of levels. The hotel was very comfortable; the golf course was fantastic. They took great care of us. I think they did a really nice job with the staging and the things they have done this week. It was a fun event.

“Obviously golf is an emerging sport here and (we want to help) contribute to where this nation wants to go. I wish this country well, I really do in golf, and hopefully I’ll be back to defend next year,” the 40-year-old added.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson, 49, was making his first competitive visit to the Kingdom. He too was full of praise for both the event and hospitality. “I’ve had a great week, and this is really, again, been a great week for me to build off my game. We were treated so well and had a wonderful experience here.

“The course is spectacular. I’m very pleasantly surprised at what a quality golf course this is, because I know there’s a lot of growth and a lot of courses being built, and this is a great standard to try to keep up with.”

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican singing sensation Luis Fonsi — who performed to a packed crowd on the third night of the Saudi International, powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers — was delighted by the response he had received playing his first gig in the Kingdom.

Posting online, he said: “It’s so nice to be able to do a concert in a place where music manages to connect us as if we speak the same language, regardless of race or culture. (The concert) was one of those you don’t forget. I can’t wait to be back.”

Omar Mattar, 23, made the trip to KAEC from Jeddah with two friends. He said: “We’re big sports fans but golf for us, like many people in Saudi Arabia, is a very new sport. Being huge Zedd fans, we decided we’d come through to see what the golf was like before going to the concert at night. It feels bigger and better than last year.

“The players made the game look so easy. When we tried playing in the entertainment zone, we realized it’s a bit harder than it looks. But it was a great experience and the concert was incredible. We’ll be back next year, without a doubt.”

Hosts Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation were delighted with the success of the event and what they regard as the latest step on a quest to get Saudis playing golf and enjoying the sport.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi, said: “To have the top names in golf once again appear at the Saudi International was a real honor for us. Graeme’s (McDowell) performance all four days was outstanding, and he is a worthy champion.”

“The tournament continues to shape our collective vision for golf in the Kingdom, introducing the game at every level. I hope even more visitors turn out to join us in 2021 as golf becomes part of the fabric of modern-day Saudi Arabia.”

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