This year, the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters celebrates 18 years as one of the most remarkable and unique golf tournaments in the world.
The prestigious event, which has been hosted at the Doha Golf Club since its inception in 1998, sits at the heart of The European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’, flanked by the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
For more than 12 years, Chris Myers has been General Manager of the Doha Golf Club, and for the past eight he has also served as the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters Tournament Director. Few people, therefore, are better placed to chronicle the evolution of this unique tournament over the past decade.
Myers sits on the tournament organising committee, an organization with a twin vision to orchestrate an annual golf tournament of world-class pedigree whilst also maintaining a uniquely Qatari sporting experience.
“It all began with a revolutionary decision,” remembers Myers. “Tami Al Hajri, the President of the Qatar Golf Association (QGA) at the time, had a visionary plan to build one of the first grass golf courses in the Middle East. It was a bold move because at the time the sport was much less popular in the region than it is today, and was barely recognised by many Qataris.
“But you have to start somewhere. Indeed, it was a fledgling event, but there was great potential.”
“Since then there has been a major and steady growth in the popularity of golf - an increasing appetite for the sport which also has grown exponentially in the region. Needless to say, Qatar’s strategic vision to become a sporting hub in the region, culminating in 2022 with the hosting of the FIFA World CupTM, has benefited the tournament in many ways.”
Myers adds: “At the time, The European Tour had been looking to spread their wings around the world, so there was a perfect opportunity to host an event in Qatar.”
The first Qatar Masters tournament was played in 1998 with prize money of US$1 million, eight years after the foundation of the Qatar Golf Association.
Having proved a major success, it wasn’t long before the Qatar Masters attracted major new partners, most notably the Commercial Bank of Qatar who shared the organiser’s ambition, and eventually the two organisations formed a partnership that has sustained for 10 years.
Myers says: “We were so lucky that Commercial Bank showed an interest in the tournament and shared our ambition at an early stage. As a result of Commercial Bank’s sponsorship we are now one of the major stops on The European Tour. The commitment of the current QGA President, Mr. Hassan Al-Nuaimi, and the Senior Management at Commercial Bank, have enabled us to elevate the tournament to one of the European Tour’s flagship events for both players and spectators.”
Abdulla Saleh Al Raisi, Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank, believes that one of the Bank’s most important contributions as title sponsor has been to use the tournament as a vehicle to support the socio-economic development of Qatar.
“We are proud to be part of a Qatari event that enjoys such international distinction,” says Al Raisi. “Our partnership with the Qatar Masters has grown stronger with every tournament, and every year we look at new ways to give back to the community”.
“Key to the bank’s ongoing support is the role that we and the event are able to play in unearthing new opportunities for Qataris and introducing more people to such a wonderful sport.”
So it is about much more than just business. The tournament’s partnership with Commercial Bank has helped the organizers maintain their key goal: to keep the tournament as a local, community event whilst maintaining the highest calibre of international sporting competition.
Another reason that the tournament has been able to maintain its unique identity lies in its management set-up. Whilst many European Tour events employ external overseas event management companies to organize their tournaments, the Qatar Masters has remained steadfast in its desire to maintain its Qatari identity and has grown organically through the leadership of a local organizing committee made up of the Qatar Golf Association, the Doha Golf Club, and Commercial Bank.
“Our partnership with Commercial Bank has enabled us to keep the Qatar Masters local, friendly and accessible,” says Myers. “Perhaps much more so than many other European Tour tournaments.
“Supported by the organizing committee and a number of major Qatari sponsors, the tournament actively seeks to embrace the wider Doha community; and there is a conscious desire to keep it that way.”
That strategy has certainly paid off as many of the world’s best golfers, including the likes of Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjørn and Henrik Stenson, return year on year to play.
“They love it,” says Myers with hint of pride. “They love the welcoming atmosphere and the way the tournament is organised.
“Many players will say they love playing here because it is a family-friendly, hassle-free event. They experience the generous hospitality of Qatar and we take care of the players’ wives and children, and of all their needs.”
In 2015 Commercial Bank is marking its 10th year as title sponsor of the event. The tournament’s esteemed list of champions includes former world number ones Ernie Els (2005) and Adam Scott (2002 and 2008), Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia (2014), Thomas Bjørn (2011), Henrik Stenson (2006), Paul Lawrie (1999 and 2012) and Robert Karlsson (2010), and two-time US Open Champion Retief Goosen (2007).
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