LET launches event in Saudi Arabia, where women face many barriers

Ladies European Tour

LET launches event in Saudi Arabia, where women face many barriers

Professional

LET launches event in Saudi Arabia, where women face many barriers

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The Ladies European Tour has announced a new event for 2020 in Saudi Arabia. The 72-hole event will mark the first professional female golf tournament held in Saudi Arabia. The event, held March 19-22, will feature a $1 million purse, among the highest prize funds on the LET.

The field of 108 professionals will compete at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, near Jeddah, on the Red Sea coast. The event will be staged in collaboration with Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation.

Phil Mickelson was the latest PGA Tour player to come under fire for his decision to skip the Waste Management Phoenix Open to play in the European Tour’s Saudi International. In the run-up to last year’s inaugural Saudi men’s event, several players drew criticism for committing to play — and receiving appearance fees for it — in the wake of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

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 this month, restaurants will no longer require separate entrances for women and families and one solely for men. Last year the Saudi government lifted a ban on women applying for licenses and driving.

Despite the barriers placed on Saudi women in every day life, Thursday’s news of the LET event was met with optimism by player ambassador Carly Booth, who views the event as a way to grow the game among women.

Amy Boulden, Rachel Drummond, Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deiler are also ambassadors.

“I’m looking forward to being part of history with the other ladies on the tour and of course to competing over the Royal Greens course,” said Booth in a statement. “I have visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions and been lucky enough to spend some time teaching local women and girls how to play; they have been so enthusiastic and I am sure that seeing professional golfers compete in their country will inspire them to take up the game and strive for their dreams.”

The LET recently voted to partner with the LPGA to help boost the presence of women’s golf in Europe. The tour has struggled mightily in recent years to put together a schedule that gives players a full-time place to compete.

In 2008 the LET had 28 tournaments. In 2017 it dropped to 15 events. This year’s schedule included 20 tournaments, but three of those were jointly sanctioned by the LPGA: AIG Women’s British Open, Evian Championship, Ladies Scottish Open.

The LET played for almost $15 million this season, though roughly $10 million came from those three co-sanctioned tournaments.

The LPGA competed for $70.2 million in 2019.

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