It was a warm afternoon at the first round of the Saudi Ladies International Pro-Am on Friday at the Shanti Golf and Country Club in Alexandria. With temperatures in the upper 70s and an accompanying wind, it felt just like summer break in a tent city, with the acoustics of the Dafel venue and huge court made a perfect backdrop for the round.
The event features international amateur players and they are seeking cash prizes from the participating Asian Tour, LPGA and other national tours.
After a fog delay delayed the start of the round, the 24 pros and five amateurs toted their clubs from the first tee to the second tee as a warm sun shone on the lone course on the American golf scene.
Emily Pedersen was in conversation with US-based Jodi McQuillan after the round and offered me some advice on how to play like an American. This suggested the Danish-American has a very clear, simple concept of golf and golfing culture.
She pointed out that, when American kids grow up, the design of the course, the offerings of food and beverage outlets and the attitude toward the game is set. “The planet hasn’t done anything, they’ve just copied what the countries have been doing with this game for years,” Emily explained. “Golf has become a religion in places like the Middle East, like it has in Asia and Latin America. The people love it because they have no other leisure or other way to spend their free time, and it’s always been so egalitarian — no particular rungs of income, in fact.”
The peripatetic left-hander on her second visit to Alexandria was now fully engaged in the hunt for a second career victory in UAE, after winning in 2010 at the Shanti Country Club for the Rakia Club. It was a winter win that left her mentally and physically drained, having used her renowned skills for that winning score of 66.
She said, “It was a huge success as the weather was really cold and windy and it didn’t hurt my handicap.”
Emily was straight up about the advantage for individual players, and not club players, in walking the course, as they are just miles further ahead.
“They don’t have to think about it as much, because this round is all about the three games, like putting, hitting or putting. It’s all about golf, that’s what matters. The club guys, they are made to be hit a lot of fairways and they’re chipping and putting anyway. It’s about the game and hitting it off the tee. It’s all about hitting it off the tee. But they can just run in one good putt,” said Emily.
Noting that European golfers are used to more challenging golf courses, she said, “They are just a different breed of golfer, for sure. The UAE courses, for sure, are easier, they are way easier.”
No doubt with 22 American foreign players to be joined by nine world class Emirati amateurs and professionals as a main draw, the whole tournament is bound to attract more and more TV coverage and the likes of the BBC and CNN.
Emily has already committed to representing the USA at the Dubai Desert Classic, the World Ladies’ Championship in Abu Dhabi in January and the Challenge Cup (UCI) in Oman, before reporting for duty in the Olympics.