RAK Golf Challenge champion Jordan Smith put to the test in paddleboard-meets-golf stunt

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Ten months after blitzing the European Challenge Tour field at the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge, England’s Jordan Smith believes the emirate’s Al Hamra Golf Club is in “perfect shape” to host the future stars of the global game when the tournament returns to the UAE’s northern-most emirate from October 25-28.

Smith, who secured his first PGA European Tour card following a memorable wire-to-wire display in Ras Al Khaimah last October, has shot to the upper echelons of the game following a stunning rookie year in Europe.

England’s Jordan Smith, is now considered one of the brightest emerging stars in global golf. He proved he is just as accomplished with a paddle as an eight-iron during a fun-filled paddleboard-meets-golf stunt at Al Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah last week.

Having secured multiple top 10 finishes and a maiden Tour win at August’s Porsche European Open in Hamburg, Germany, Smith 24, has risen to 69th in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), currently sits in a lofty 17th in the Race to Dubai rankings, and has guaranteed his place in the season-ending, $8 million DP World Tour Championships at Jumeirah Golf Estates, November 16-19.
And despite defying the odds with seasoned displays which dispel his rookie status, Smith attributes his glorious four-day performance in Ras Al Khaimah last winter as the precursor to this year’s meteoric rise to global prominence.








The Englishman was challenged to the unique ‘PaddleGolf’ test by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), Canadian Claudine Foong, a former touring professional and current wellness and performance coach, and her husband, Alex Riggs, a Canadian PGA Coach.

The ‘PaddleGolf’ challenge saw Smith and Foong paddleboard approximately 1,000 metres from the new Al Hamra Sailing Club through the tranquil waters of Al Hamra Marina, before stepping on to a floating pontoon to fire 140-yard shots towards a makeshift pin on the 18th green of Al Hamra Golf Club – the venue of next month’s Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge, which returns to the UAE’s northernmost emirate from October 25-28.

Smith, who secured his first PGA European Tour card following a memorable wire-to-wire display at the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge last October, even managed to sink one of his shots, leaving him in a buoyant mood on his first return to Al Hamra since lifting the European Challenge Tour event’s trophy 10 months ago.

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With a 105-strong roster of the world’s up-and-coming golf stars due to tee-off in the second Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge in six weeks’ time, Haitham Mattar, CEO of RAKTDA, which organises the event, was thrilled to see Smith back in the emirate.

"It’s fantastic that Jordan has taken some time out from his busy European Tour schedule to return to Ras Al Khaimah. As Jordan's outstanding season proves, the European Challenge Tour remains a fertile breeding ground for nurturing talents that regularly progress to become household names in the professional game. I’m sure this year’s Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge will once again shine the spotlight on the next generation of future stars,” said Mattar.

“It’s great to have him back here with us and on behalf of all his fans in Ras Al Khaimah we wish him a successful end to his rookie season on the European Tour.”

Smith, who is in the emirate preparing for the finale of the European playing season, added: “I’d had a very strong Challenge Tour season last year but winning in Ras Al Khaimah was the icing on the cake.

“Performing so consistently with so much on the line was a huge confidence boost and I’ve been fortunate enough to carry that form into my rookie season on the European Tour. Everything is going well but there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think how important my Ras Al Khaimah win was in getting me to where I am today. I’m only really at the start of my golf career – a bit like Ras Al Khaimah – and it’s going to be a long journey but that particular junction was a crucial point in my progression.”

The Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge, the penultimate event of this season’s European Challenge Tour, has attracted a marquee line-up of sponsors for its second edition including Emirates Airline, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Group and Al Hamra Golf Club.

With the world’s up-and-coming golf stars due to tee-off in the second Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge in six weeks’ time, Smith, who cannot defend his title having graduated to the European Tour ranks, believes Al Hamra Golf Club will prove a stern test for this year’s crop of emerging European Challenge Tour superstars.

“The Al Hamra course is in very good condition; you would never guess we’re at the tail-end of a scorching summer season in Ras Al Khaimah. It will be in perfect shape by the time the guys touch down. If you can keep the ball straight off the tee and stay away from the lagoons, the course can be relatively straight-forward, but with so much at stake in the season’s penultimate tournament it will definitely test the field - I have no doubts about that.”

The ringing endorsement of the verdant Al Hamra course is music to the ears of Andrew Matthews, Head of the Golf Club: “It’s fantastic to have Jordan back here playing the course ahead of this year’s tournament. We’ve had the opportunity to run a few changes we’re planning past him - things like pin placements, tee positions and areas of rough – and he was very responsive to the work being overseen by the organisation team and greenkeepers.”

For more information on the Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge and The Road to Oman 2017 visit www.europeantour.com/challengetour.

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Rafael Cabrera Bello: Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge set to be a success

Chris Bailey 3/10/2017
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Challenge accepted: Rafael Cabrera Bello is a big fan of the European Challenge Tour.

Ryder Cup golfer Rafael Cabrera Bello attended a special dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on Monday night in celebration of the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge’s return later this month.

Last year marked the first time that the Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge appeared on the European Challenge Tour’s calendar, with Jordan Smith winning the event at Al Hamra Golf Club.

The Englishman has since gone from strength to strength, finishing in the top 10 at the PGA Championship earlier this year and clinching the Porsche European Open.

And Cabrera Bello, a mainstay on the European Tour since 2009, believes more gems are set to be unearthed in Ras Al Khaimah this year.

“What I’ve heard from friends who play in the Challenge Tour, they love the event in Ras Al Khaimah – and it introduced a very good winner (in Smith),” said Cabrera Bello, who is a JA Resorts and Hotels ambassador.

“I have a good relationship with the Challenge Tour director (Alain De Soultrait) and he said the biggest improvement on the tour he is how the courses are prepared.

“They are playing on better courses more often which is a big difference from when I played. I think because of this the success ratio for the players who get the European Tour card is much improved.”

The tournament, held this month between October 25-28, is a key part of the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority’s (RAKTDA) drive to introduce more attractions to an increasingly popular emirate with tourists.

According to RAKTDA CEO Haitham Mattar, Ras Al Khaimah has become a can’t miss destination for golfers alongside Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“The fact that we have two understated golf courses between Al Hamra’s natural lagoon setting, and the Tower Links, gives us a great advantage for us to position our destination on the map for golf tourism,” he said.

“We are seeing fantastic growth year on year from golfers since Al Hamra has become a championship course.

“Monthly it is well above 35 per cent and that is predominately from players who go to Abu Dhabi and Dubai and are now including Ras Al Khaimah in their tour.”

The Ras Al Khaimah Golf Challenge will be hotly-contested as it is the last chance for the top 45 golfers on the European Challenge tour to make it into the following week’s NBO Golf Classic Grand final in Oman.

“It’s a very important week for the Challenge Tour. It’s life-changing for the golfers, and the great example is last year’s Ras Al Khaimah champion Jordan Smith, who now stands 71st in the official world golf rankings,” said Nick Tarratt, director of European Tour International Dubai office..

“He’s a great example of how careers and lives have changed, and Ras Al Khaimah is part of that journey and we look forward to the event in year two being bigger and better – and who knows where it will take us.”

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Emirates Golf Federation's Arabic Schools Initiative on track to unearth UAE-grown golfing talent

Sport360 staff 19/09/2017
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The prospect of seeing a home-grown player from the UAE making it on the world golfing stage is edging closer to becoming a reality thanks to the ongoing success of the DP World-funded Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) Arabic Schools Initiative.

The innovative programme, which is also supported by the European Tour, launched last year with the first phase seeing the EGF -- with the assistance of Golf DXB -- visiting six UAE schools to give ‘Golf Taster’ sessions to over 3,000 students.

Fifty children were also treated to a visit to the European Tour’s season-ending tournament, the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where they had a ‘behind the scenes’ tour to get a taste of what is involved in running a world-class golf tournament.

During the introductory phase, 100 children took up memberships at golf clubs across the region. The astounding influx of new young golfers prompted the EGF to create four Foundation Squads at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Emirates Golf Club, The Track Meydan, Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club and Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club.
In addition to their ongoing development at their respective clubs, the Foundation Squads, made up of 40 children, along with the UAE National Squad, are to have access once a month to one of the very best training facilities in the world with coaching sessions at the European Tour Performance Institute (ETPI) at Jumeirah Golf Estates.










The ETPI at the famous Dubai venue is one of only two such facilities in the world and home to some of the most cutting-edge equipment available as well as a team of world-class coaches who will help the EGF achieve the goal of bringing the children in the Foundation Squads onto the UAE National Squad within 12 to 18 months.

Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman and CEO, said: “We are delighted to be able to support this major initiative and to play a part in the development of our UAE National Golf Teams.

"Supporting grassroots golf is central to our involvement in the sport and something we care very passionately about. The growth of the game in the region is extremely important to us and giving local golfers access to facilities such as the world-renowned European Tour Performance Institute at Jumeirah Golf Estates offers them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.”

Adel Zarouni Emirates Golf Federation Vice Chairman said: "With the support of DP World, the EGF has been able to see rapid growth at the grassroots level which is pushing the National Junior Development Program.

"With a successful EGF Arabic Schools Golf Initiative over the last year and a half, the EGF is excited to reach the next step of our program by creating the UAE Foundation Squads.

"Again, with the passion and support from DP World devoted to the Foundation Squads, we are excited to see our young boys and girls enhance their golf game by using the European Tour Performance Institute at Jumeirah Golf Estates for elite training and player analysis."



Nick Tarratt Director European Tour International Dubai Office, added: “The European Tour is delighted to be joining DP World in supporting this forward-thinking initiative which is a shining example of joined up thinking between stakeholders in the local golf community.

"Last year’s introductory phase was an overwhelming success, resulting in a huge influx of local school children taking up the sport of golf.

"It will be fascinating to see how the youngsters who have joined the Foundation Squads progress in the next phase of their development under the guidance of the EGF, the local golf clubs, and the wonderful coaches at the European Tour Performance Institute.

"Children are the key to the future of the game at all levels and initiatives like this are crucial in ensuring golf’s continued growth here in the UAE and around the world.”


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