Prize boost for golf Champs
United Arab Emirates - HSBC has agreed become sponsors of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, boosting prize money by $500 000 to $2.7m, organiSers said on Wednesday.
The increased purse bucks a trend in the United Arab Emirates which has seen prize money hit by the economic downturn. The Dubai World Championship, for example, has cut its prize money by 25 percent to $7.5m.
Organisers expect five of the world's top 10 golfers will compete at Abu Dhabi Golf Club from January 20-23. They confirmed on Wednesday that last year's winner Martin Kaymer will play, along with the English duo of Paul Casey and Lee Westwood.
"This partnership ushers in a new era for the championship and golf in Abu Dhabi," said the head of Abu Dhabi's tourism authority, Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan. "It is in many ways a coming of age for the championship and for Abu Dhabi's ambitions as a credible golf destination."
Organisers said they are hoping to attract greater crowds - small attendances plague most tournaments in the Middle East - with an expanded championship village that will feature more attractions, restaurants and cafes.
"We are determined to evolve Abu Dhabi into an international golfing destination," said Mubarak Hamad al-Muhairi, director general of the tourism authority, noting that the emirate is now home to "three world-class, championship ready" golf courses.
Giles Morgan, HSBC's group head of sponsorship, said he was won over when he visited the Abu Dhabi tournament earlier this year.
"There are a lot of options to sponsor within the world of golf," Morgan said. "When we looked at the quality of the tournament, the quality of golf course, the set up and how players were looked after it seemed the most natural fit for us."