From Ernie Els' weekly diary
My 2014 PGA TOUR campaign came to end at the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in September, but as is typically the way at this stage of the season, there is still a lot of golf to play and tournaments to win before we draw a line under the year.
An upcoming highlight for me is a four-week stretch of tournaments in Asia encompassing visits to some of my favourite parts of the world. As an Honorary Member and International Ambassador of the Asian Tour, it promises to be an exciting and very enjoyable time.
It all tees off in mid-October with my first ever appearance in the Hong Kong Open. I’ve spoken to some of the guys who have played there, including Miguel [Angel Jiménez] who as everyone probably knows has won it a bunch of times.
They’ve all spoken very highly about the city, the tournament and the people. I’m looking forward to it. Having played the Hong Kong Golf Club on a previous visit and enjoyed it very much, it’ll be fun to play it under tournament conditions.
Straight after Hong Kong we’re moving on to the Venetian Macau Open. Obviously this is one of the most prestigious events on the Asian Tour and it’s really evolved into one of the city’s premier sporting events.
Last year it was a totally new place for me to visit on the world map – trust me that doesn’t happen often these days – and I loved it. Macau is a happening kind of city and the people and the hospitality were both warm and wonderful.
I also came close to winning that tournament, ultimately finishing tied third, but Scott Hend was very strong on that final day and he deserved the victory.
After Macau we’ll point the plane in the direction of another exciting and incredible city, Shanghai, first for the BMW Masters and then the WGC-HSBC Champions. I’ve played more BMW tournaments in my career than I could possibly remember, but not this one; this will be a first for me.
In addition to the established stars on show, the event also offers up-and-coming players the chance to further their development on the big stage, with four wild cards up for grabs and 14 places available for young Chinese players. It’s good to see that.
As for the WGC-HSBC Champions, well, that has become Asia’s Major and the term ‘star-studded field’ is definitely never an exaggeration. Ask any player, me included, and they’ll tell you it is one of the best and most impressive tournaments of the year and in many respects it reflects the way golf in Asia has grown this past decade or so. It’s certainly come a long way since I first started playing in Asia 20 years ago, and yet the momentum is such that from here there’s no doubt in my mind that the only way is up…even further!
Other recent news that found its way on to my radar was the announcement that in December The Els Club Dubai is hosting the inaugural Dubai Open, the final event of 2014 on the Asian Tour.
Everyone on the Ernie Els Design team and at The Els Club Dubai is thrilled and honoured that the Asian Tour has placed its trust in this venue for such a significant tournament. We couldn’t be more proud of the golf course.
Since it opened in 2008 as our flagship for The Els Club brand, it has become a favourite among local and international golfers. The presentation of the playing surfaces and immaculate conditioning of the course make it an excellent choice as a tournament venue. It’s a challenging test, but it also offers good scoring opportunities for the golfer who is on his game. It promises to be a great week for Asian golf and of course for everyone at The Els Club Dubai.
Additionally, it was of interest to me to learn of the first ever tri-sanctioned tournament endorsed by the Sunshine, European and Asian Tours, the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, which will be held next May at the Heritage Golf Club.
All three Tours joining forces for one week is, of course, a significant milestone for professional golf and one that can only benefit all parties. It’s great news for the players, too. We hear 40 professionals from each of the participating Tours, plus qualifiers and local invitees, will make up the 138-man field.
That sounds like a nice formula and will give opportunities to young players wanting to make their mark on the international stage; it’s the kind of platform that can launch careers. Hats off to everyone involved in this initiative.
The players will love Mauritius, too. It really is a stunning island, a place that everyone at Ernie Els Design has great fondness for as it was the location for one of our earliest design projects, Anahita Golf Club.
We were given a beautiful site on the east coast of the island and in our design were able to maximise the visual impact of the surrounding scenery, but at the same time preserve the coastline’s natural beauty.
The hole-routings move in and out of the trees, along the water and back, giving players great variety and magnificent views of the ocean. Since it opened in early 2008 Anahita has hosted the Mauritius Open several times, with considerable success.
During that tournament, and probably even the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the only dilemma the players perhaps might have to grapple with is trying to concentrate on their golf when the famous white sandy beaches, tropical weather and clear, warm blue waters are all around, bombarding your senses in the best possible way. Yes, the life of a tour professional is often full of challenges, but they’ll manage it I’m sure!