By Andy Sambidge
Gulf state to make European Tour debut in 2011 with season opening tournament.
Bahrain will be added to the European Golf Tour next year when it hosts a season opening Tournament of Champions, it was announced on Tuesday.
The new tournament, which has been welcomed by Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), will take place on January 27-30 2011.
The event will take place at the Royal Golf Club, Bahrain, which re-opened in 2009 following extensive re-development. There will be a total prize money of EUR1.7m.
Shaikh Mohammed said: “This is very big news for us. Golf is a very established and important business tool that we have yet to exploit. We have worked hard to bring this event to Bahrain and are very happy that Volvo, IMG and the European Tour have chosen us as host.
“Golf has a very strong global presence and we believe it will bring great benefits to Bahrain.
"We have made great strides to raise the profile of Bahrain on the international stage in recent years, starting with the Bahrain Formula one Grand Prix, the first F1 event in the Middle East. Hosting the curtain raiser for the European Golf Tour will only help us raise our profile further,” he added.
The Volvo Tournament of Champions will see European Tour tournament winners compete together with leading amateurs on one day of the Tournament.
Its unique qualification criteria will mean only winners of previous European Tour tournaments will be eligible to play.
To celebrate the first tournament, the 2011 event will be widened to a full field of up to 126 players, bringing together both current and past European Tour winners, including champions of past major events.
European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie added that he was excited by the new tournament.