Inaugural Mini-Series proves operational feasibility of experimental Emirates Amateur Golf League platform
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Inaugural Mini-Series proves feasibility of experimental Emirates Amateur Golf League platform

Inaugural Mini-Series proves feasibility of experimental Emirates Amateur Golf League platform

MENA Golfers won the televised Mini-Series held on June 20 at the Fire Course of the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai

Sudesh Aggarwal, owner of Emirates Amateur Golf League

There are big plans in store for November’s inaugural season of the Emirates Amateur Golf League (EAGL) – the world’s first franchise-based amateur golf league. A brainchild of Indian businessman Sudesh Aggarwal, the concept has slowly begun to take shape. Earlier this year, EAGL brought in Indian professional golfer Shiv Kapur as brand ambassador, and also appointed Nick Tarratt as Tournament director.

But with an experimental tournament like this one, Aggarwal and EAGL League administrator, Priyaa Kumria, thought it necessary to have a dress rehearsal to test the format and operational flow, as well as the sheer logistics of hosting such a tournament.

To that end, a 9-hole showcase event, called EAGL Mini-Series, was held on June 20 at the Fire Course of the Jumeirah Golf Estates.

The one-day event gave eight four-man teams – namely the Abu Dhabi Roars, Dubai Tigers, English Roses, MENA Golfers, Indian Lions, Emirates Players, Asian Jumbos and European Seves – a chance to compete against one another.

Asian Tour winner Kapur was on hand to hit the ceremonial first tee shot. “I have never seen an amateur golf [event] like this, not even professional golf across the world. The idea is that team golf is always more exciting than individual formats; the colourfulness, the uniforms, you are playing for a team, it’s a nine-hole shootout…it’s very exciting and I think it’s here to stay,” said Kapur of the EAGL format.

The MENA Golfers went up against the Asian Jumbos, captained by Dubai Eye’s Robbie Greenfield, and they got off to a strong start in Match 2 with Deepak Jain beating Bayern Khan 3&1.

All matches featured an additional ‘press match’ where the remaining holes were played out if the match finished before the 18th, with an additional point up for grabs for the winner. The pair halved their press match, meaning it was two points on the board.

In Match 7, MENA Golfers’ Ashok Kumar beat Rohit Kashal 3&1 and then won the press match 1-up to contribute a sensational three points, while in Match 9 Zubair Firdaus replicated the feat by beating Wayne Platts 4&3 before adding another point with a 2&1 victory in the press. The emphatic team display was rounded off in Match 13 where Craig Vance won his match against Paul Murnaghan 3&2 before halving the press match. By collecting 10 points out of 12, MENA Golfers won the Mini-Series.

One of the highlights of the event was that there were TV cameras on hand, along with commentary from Graham Clews, with the footage broadcast live on Dubai Sports channel and EAGL’s social media handles.

MENA Golfers won the Mini-Series held on June 20 in Dubai
MENA Golfers won the Mini-Series held on June 20 in Dubai

“The live telecast was always going to be a very crucial part for us. In the end, it was good to hear the feedback from the players about it. Most of them talked about the pressure that comes with the cameras around them, and how it affected their games. The sheer joy on their faces as they showed us messages from their relatives and friends who were watching the action in far-flung places such as the US, South Africa, Australia and Mauritius, was something that we will cherish,” said league administrator Kumria.

It’s a sentiment shared by Kapur, who added, “I was feeling some butterflies on the first tee, so I can imagine what the amateurs were going through; to be live on TV and the nerves that they feel, it’s very different from Pro-Am. The whole idea of EAGL was to give them the experience of pro tournaments for team competitions, so it’s like the Ryder Cup and a Tour event all in one.”

MENA Golfers team-member Vance, playing off a -4.5 handicap, also singled out the benefits of a live audience which were present on the course. “We had music on the first tee which livened it up a bit, [with] plenty of spectators. I think the event will hopefully give the juniors a little bit more exposure to what it’s like in these bigger events as you move out of Dubai.”

Judging by the buzz that the event created among the local golfing community and the social media traction it gathered, Aggarwal was “absolutely delighted” with the day. And understandably so, given the planning and execution of the Mini-Series, including a State of the Nation-style forum headlined by industry heavyweights after play, was achieved in less than 45 days.

The EAGL-organised Middle East Golf Forum, which took place on the same day as the Mini-Series on June 20, saw industry heavyweights including Chris May, CEO of Dubai Golf; Mark Chapleski, president of Troon International; Simon Corkill, executive Tournament director, Omega Dubai Desert Classic; Ismail Sharif, managing director of Jumeirah Golf Estates; Roger Duthie, sponsorship officer, Performance 54 and Tarratt debate on the topic ‘The Health of the Game of Golf in the UAE and the Middle East in 2021’. “Although there were challenges last year, I think that golf in the region is in a very positive place. We have seen the number of golf rounds increase by 20 per cent since the Covid-19 lockdown of 35 days between March and April. That’s a real positive because we have seen an increase in the number of memberships, rounds by members and non-members and the number of lessons being taken. So, there is definitely an increase in the interest in golf in the region and we have great opportunities to capitalise on that going forward [to] really grow the game,” said May.

Meanwhile, Aggarwal confirmed that there will be similar events in the run-up to the main tournament in November. “We are pleased to announce two more Mini-Series as part of the Amateur Golf Tour by Just Golf before the end of 2021. Dates, venue and other details will be revealed soon.” Stay tuned.

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