‘Dream come true to host Oman Open’
Golf in Oman is set for a fresh tee-off as the Ministry of Sports Affairs (MoSA) will be setting up Oman Golf Association (OGA).
The news of making the existing Oman Golf Committee (OGC), also branded as Golf Oman, into an OGA was revealed by H E Dr Mohammed bin Hamad al Rumhi, Minister of Oil and Gas, and the man behind the development of golf in the sultanate.
In an exclusive interview with Muscat Daily, H E Dr Rumhi said, “I am delighted to share this extremely important news that the Ministry of Sports Affairs has given the nod to set up Oman Golf Association. It is a very positive step to have an association. It is a recognition of the game of golf and the strides it has made in the country.”
OGC was set up by MoSA in January, 2009. The news of the setting up of OGA could not have come at a better time with Oman getting ready to host its biggest golf tournament - the Oman Open - a European Tour event for the second year in succession.
The US$1.75mn prize-money tournament will be held at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf from February 28-March 3. It is expected to attract some of the world’s leading golfers, including defending champion Joost Luiten and Ryder Cup star Chris Wood.
The Oman Open, which was successfully played as NBO Open last year, is ‘a dream come true’ according to H E Dr Rumhi, whose keen interest has been the reason that the European Tour continues to make Oman as its destination. After the pullout of NBO as the title sponsor, H E Dr Rumhi’s personal interest saw Oman’s private sector come forward in a big way. Besides the private sector in Oman, in a first, there are few overseas companies, who have joined in to support the event.
“Sometimes with problems come opportunities. We were disappointed when the main sponsor backed out so late. However, a few calls and it did not take us long to get the other sponsors on board as they agreed with our aim - to put Oman on the world golfing map and use the Oman Open as a vehicle to promote golf tourism in the sultanate.
“With an estimated worldwide TV audience reaching out to more that 200mn, the Oman Open provides us a fantastic chance to showcase our country over four days with golf action along with clips of Musandam, Salalah, wadis, desert and mountains.”
H E Dr Rumhi, who is an avid golfer, said that ‘the larger objective of Oman Open is to let the world know that a peaceful country like ours is full of opportunities for investment’. “I believe the Oman Open under the organisation of Oman Golf Committee will put spotlight on Oman to further strengthen the message to the world, that Oman is a beautiful destination for tourists and an attractive destination for investors.”
The economic impact of last year’s event in Oman, according to European Tour, has been estimated to be US$26mn. With the annual Tour of Oman cycling race to begin on February 16 and a Quadrangular T20I Series cricket, involving Test-playing nation Ireland, beginning on Wednesday along with an international regatta - EFG Sailing Arabia-The Tour currently under way, H E Dr Rumhi admitted that there is a need to space out such big sporting events in future. “The Ministry of Sports Affairs along with other stakeholders can discuss on this matter as it would be better to have such popular international events spaced out.”
On the plans ahead for Oman Open, H E Dr Rumhi said, “We have a three-year deal with European Tour with an option to renew it. We are keen to have a long-term relationship with the European Tour. We have a dream to bring in big stars in future and with golf projects coming up in Sohar and plans for courses in Duqm and Salalah, golf is certainly on the upswing. “In future, my wish is to have this tournament travel to new courses across Oman which will be a fantastic way to promote Oman’s tourism potential.”