The Saudi Ladies International is confirmed to return in 2021 after a debut event that broke new ground for women’s sport both in Saudi Arabia and around the world.
Held over the last two weekends, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF, and its sister event, the Saudi Ladies Team International, attracted no less than 108 of the best golfers on the planet to the Kingdom to compete for a share of $1.5million prize money – the Ladies European Tour’s third biggest purse of the season.
Despite being played without spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions, the impact of the ‘women’s week of golf’ was felt worldwide, with the event broadcast to more than 60 countries and almost 350 million households.
In Saudi Arabia, the tournaments were the first ever all-women’s professional sporting events to be beamed on national television, a factor that directly led to more than 1,000 Saudi women and girls registering to learn golf as part of the Golf Saudi’s Ladies First Club free golf initiative, launched on the first day of the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF.
Both events also drew praise across the board from competing players, whose tournament performances were reported from Australia to Swaziland, to a global audience of close to a billion people, bringing unprecedented attention to the women’s game.
H.E. Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “This has been an historic time for Saudi Arabia and women’s golf, and we could not be prouder. Congratulations to Emily Pedersen, there were some great performances, in tough conditions. I would like to thank the Ladies European Tour and all its members for being great partners and we look forward to growing our relationship in the years to come.
“Both tournaments have been a great success and in terms of the Saudi Ladies Team International, I am confident this won’t be the last we hear of exciting team formats in the professional game. We are committed to building the game of golf in Saudi Arabia and to creating opportunities for women in the sport. As such, I would also like to announce we have confirmed our 2021 date for next year’s Saudi Ladies International; November 10 - 13.”
The one name on everyone’s lips across both tournaments was Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, who ended up taking home all three of the week’s available titles after winning the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF in a playoff against England’s major-winning Georgia Hall, and then triumphing in both the individual and team categories of the Saudi Ladies Team International.
She said: “It’s been such a fantastic experience to be here in Saudi Arabia. I have loved the course, the weather is good here, the people are nice, and it’s been a great ten days.”
Scotland’s Alison Muirhead echoed that view, saying: “I’ve loved every minute of my time in Saudi, it’s been fantastic. The people here have been great. We’ve really been looked after, and I’ve really enjoyed being here.”
The tournaments were Saudi Arabia’s first international-scale sporting events since the COVID-19 outbreak, and required vast amounts of planning and on-site regulation to ensure all participants and event staff could operate safely within a bio-secure environment for the duration of the tournaments, held at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
Across a three-week period, the event’s “inner bubble” housed almost 600 players, caddies and event staff, who between them received more than 1,500 COVID tests at on-site PCR testing facilities, with not a single player recording a positive test.
Other notable milestones of the debut tournaments included the launch of Saudi Arabia’s National Golf Sustainability Strategy, which aims to allow the Kingdom to establish the most socially beneficial, economically productive and environmentally responsible golfing ecosystem in the world.
Also of note was the considerable success of the launch of the Ladies First Club, which saw in excess of 1,000 women and girls from across the Kingdom sign-up to learn golf for the first time in less than four days, in a world first scheme that it is hoped will mark a new dawn for the game in Saudi Arabia and attract many more women to play.