Ladies European Tour announces new event... in unlikely destination

Saudi Arabia Womens Event

The Ladies European Tour has announced a brand new tournament for 2020... in Saudi Arabia.

The as-yet-unnamed event will be the first-ever women's professional golf tournament to be staged in the country when it takes place from March 19-22 and, with a prize fund of $1million, it will be one of the richest events on the LET schedule.

It will be played at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, within King Abdullah Economic City, which also plays host to the European Tour’s Saudi International. 

The tour's acting CEO, Alex Armas, called the new event an "exciting prospect". 

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"Having seen the quality of the event staging for the Saudi International, I am sure this will be a fantastic experience for our players," she said.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, added: “We are delighted to be creating history by hosting the inaugural ladies professional tournament in March. I hope the tournament will inspire many women to take up the great game of golf and awaken their interest in this wonderful sport."\

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For all of the positive talk, however, the tournament is likely to draw criticism, given the host's recent record on women's rights.

The World Economic Forum's 2016 Global Gender Gap Report ranked Saudi Arabia 141 out of 144 countries for gender parity, down from 134 out of 145 in 2015.

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It wasn’t until 2015 that women were allowed to vote and be appointed to the Consultative Assembly.Until 2017, women needed to have consent from a guardian in order to access to government services such as education and healthcare with consent from a guardian. 

In the same year, King Salman also issued a decree allowing women to drive, lifting the world's only ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia.

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However, the mood music coming from many of the players is positive. Scotland's Carly Booth - who has been unveiled as a Golf Saudi ambassador along with Amy Boulden, Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert - said she was "looking forward to being part of history".

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"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," said the three-time LET winner. "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.”

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