The US$2 million Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which has attracted the biggest names in world golf to the UAE capital, is a family affair for many of the course marshals and leader board scorers.
According to Chief Marshal Jean Iggo, who’s in charge of the 400-strong team of marshals and walker-scorers at the European Tour event, more than a quarter of volunteers are married couples, most of them members of Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where the Championship continues until Sunday, January 21.
“We’ve got 50 couples, as well as father and son volunteers, mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, and there are whole families working on many of the leader boards around the course,” she said. “Friday and Saturday are family days at the Championship!”
Around 90 per cent of the volunteers are returning to the event, which is owned by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), after being involved in 2006. “That speaks volumes about the tournament. Everyone’s enjoying it,” said British-born Jean, who’s also Lady Captain at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. “It’s nice to be inside the ropes with world-class players, getting up close and personal,”
Jean’s husband Terry, managing director of a company that manufactures steel for the petro-chemical industry in Abu Dhabi, is lead marshal of the seven-strong team that followed defending champion Chris DiMarco, Scottish Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie and Sweden’s Johan Edfors around the course in the first and second rounds.
“I’ve never done this before,” said Terry, a keen golfer. “Apart from marshalling the crowd, it allows you to get closer to the players. Hopefully it will improve my game. I’ve picked up a few tips about posture and composure from watching them. The pros have the same swing pattern every shot, whether it’s with a driver or a chipping wedge, whereas an amateur will tend to hit the ball harder with certain clubs.”
Terry and Jean’s three children in the UK are among the millions of viewers around the world who are following the Championship on TV. “They send us texts, saying they can see Dad but they can’t see Mum,” said Jean. “That’s because I’m always in the Volunteers tent organising things.”
Also marshalling are Claude and Nancy Burul, from Toronto, who are both keen golfers and have been members of Abu Dhabi Golf Club since 2000. “Our kids are watching the Championship on TV in Canada,” said Claude, a surgeon at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. “Our son Justin, who’s in Toronto, says he wants to come out next year to volunteer.”
Like Terry, Claude has been picking up some tips from the pros as he follows them around the course – DiMarco, Montgomerie and Edfors in the first round, and the three-ball of world number eight Retief Goosen, Danish star Thomas Bjorn and world number 11 Sergio Garcia in round two. “I’m impressed by the short game around the greens,” he said.
“It’s our first time as volunteers and it has been great,” said Nancy. “It’s very exciting. You’re right there in the action. We’d recommend being a volunteer marshal to anyone who likes golf.”
Easily distinguished by their red and black uniforms, marshals maintain silence on the course with ‘Quiet Please’ signs. “I’m taking mine home with me!” joked Terry Iggo.
Meanwhile, on the 12 leader boards around Abu Dhabi Golf Club, various families were keeping spectators and members of the media updated with scores out on the course. Among them were the Robinsons, who were taking care of the press centre; the Tufals on hole five; the Ullemans on hole 15; the Parsons on hole 17; and the Kellies on the 18th. Sisters Christine and Kimberley Rowland were taking care of the board on hole seven; brother and sister Simon and Jessica Dalziel were on the ninth; mother and daughter Heidi and Meghan Coleman took care of scoring on holes 11 and 13; and mother and daughter Shanti and Shona Read were on hole 16.
Canadian Pam Simmons, a resident of Abu Dhabi who’s in charge of the leader board volunteers, said, “It’s a good thing for families to do. They enjoy the day together and leave with some wonderful shared memories. As for scheduling, it’s easier because they all arrive at the course at the same time.
“People love this event,” added Pam, who’s Executive Director of the Canadian Business Council in Abu Dhabi and a member of Abu Dhabi Golf Club. “We really take care of the volunteers. From food to uniforms to a bigger space for the HQ this year in a high profile location, the organisers have delivered absolutely everything we asked for and everyone’s very happy.”
Tickets for the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship are available via the official website – www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com – online at www.timeouttickets.com, via the ITP toll free hotline 800 4669 or for international clients +971 4 210 8943 and at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Tickets are priced at AED 125 for a daily pass and AED400 for a four-day pass though preferential rates of AED100 and AED300 respectively apply to UGA members. Children under 18 will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Car parking will be free during the Championship.
A complementary shuttle bus is available to take fans from Abu Dhabi city centre and Dubai to Abu Dhabi Golf Club. The buses depart both Abu Dhabi City Terminal and the Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, at 8.30am, 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am and 12.30pm. The return from Abu Dhabi Golf Club to both destinations is at 3.00pm, 4.00pm, 5.00pm, 6.00pm and 7.00pm.
The high profile sponsorship line up for the Championship includes Etihad Airways and Aldar as Diamond Sponsors; Emirates Palace hotel, Etisalat and Standard Chartered Bank as a Platinum Sponsors; Nissan, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Omega and Xerox as Gold Sponsors; Gulf News as the Official Newspaper; and Middle East Golfer as the Official Magazine.
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