The Ladies European Tour has announced two new events to be held in Saudi Arabia later this year for a total of $1.5 million in prize funds, marking the first professional female golf tournaments ever staged in Saudi Arabia.
The $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International will take place Nov. 12-15 and the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International will be held Nov. 17-19. Both events will take place at Royal Greens Golf Club on the Red Sea Coast near Jeddah. In the team competition, professional players will partner with amateurs.
The original 72-hole event was scheduled to take place in March of this year but was moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are extremely excited to be part of history in bringing the first-ever professional women’s golf event to Saudi Arabia,” said Ladies European Tour CEO Alexandra Armas in a release, “and we are thankful to their commitment to deliver not one but two tournaments, in what has been a difficult year for golf.”
The Aramco Saudi Ladies International will be the third highest-playing event on the LET schedule, behind the Scottish Open and AIG Women’s British Open.
History to be made in Saudi Arabia with $1.5 million golf week @royalgreens_ksa
$1M Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF, 12th-15th Nov
$500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International, 17th-19th Nov#SaudiLadiesIntl | #SaudiLadiesTeamIntl | #LadiesFirst pic.twitter.com/rdlDHt5G21
— Ladies European Tour (@LETgolf) September 28, 2020
Amy Boulden of Wales, who recently won the Swiss Open on the LET, plans to compete in both events.
“This type of commitment to women’s golf is really amazing to see at this time,” said Boulden in a statement.
Saudi Arabia remains one of the most gender-segregated countries in the world, however, some of the country’s strict laws have recently come under reform. According to a Reuters report late last year, restaurants no longer require separate entrances for women and families and one solely for men. In 2018, the Saudi government lifted a ban on women applying for licenses and driving.
In the run-up to the inaugural Saudi men’s event in 2019, several players drew criticism for committing to play — and receiving appearance fees from the government for it — in the wake of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Dustin Johnson won the event’s first staging. Phil Mickelson came under fire for his decision to skip the Waste Management Phoenix Open this year to play in the European Tour’s Saudi stop, won by Graeme McDowell, in February.
England’s Meghan MacLaren, a two-time winner on the LET, told The Telegraph back in January that she wouldn’t tee it up in Saudi Arabia due to concerns over the country “sportswashing” its human rights record.
“I’ve decided not to play based on what I think sport is being used to do in Saudi Arabia,” MacLaren told The Telegraph. “It’s far more complicated than any one individual, so it’s a personal decision and not something I would push onto anyone else. But based on the research of organizations like Amnesty International, I couldn’t be comfortable being part of that process.
“We take for granted a lot of the choices and freedom we have available to us, but I try to make my decisions based on who I am as a person, not just a golfer. It’s obviously a huge tournament for us, but this to me is about more than golf. I wish sport as a whole looked through a lens deeper than what benefits itself.”
The Ladies European Tour staged two events in February/March before the season was halted due to the pandemic. The tour resumed in August with back-to-back events in Scotland followed by tournaments in the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
There are five remaining events on the schedule for 2020 including the Lacoste Ladies Open de France, Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic, Andalucia Costa Del Sol Open de Espana, and the two events in Saudi Arabia.