Al-Ahram Weekly Online   8 - 14 May 2008
Issue No. 896
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Swinging away

South Africa dethroned Egypt in the women's African Golf Challenge Championship


Egyptian women were runners-up in the African Golf Challenge Championship at the Katameya Heights golf and tennis resort in New Cairo, reports Inas Mazhar.

The Egyptian women's team of Naela El-Attar, Sophie Issa and Donia Scarello scored 493 points after three rounds to win the silver medal. The Egyptians thus lost the trophy they had won in the previous edition in Zambia 2006.

South Africa, seven-time winner in the past eight editions of the event, avenged its 2006 loss to Egypt by snatching first place from the hosts. The South Africans comprised Monique Smit, Tandi Cunningham and Gina Switella. Their 431 points was enough for the gold medal.

Third place went to Zimbabwe which scored 479 points to claim bronze.

In the individual event, South Africa's women dominated, clinching all three top places. Smit (212), Cunningham (221) and Switella (226) placed from first to the third respectively, while Egypt's Naela Gabr, the defending champion, scored 232 for a fourth place finish.

Seventeen nations took part. Angola, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Namibia, Nigeria, Togo, Gabon, Botswana, Morocco, Cote d'Ivoire and the hosts Egypt were represented by a team of three players each. The players were seeded by the team captains from one to three respectively. They competed in three rounds. Player number three started the first round, followed by the second while player number one took part in the third round, with a time difference of 10 minutes.

In the three-day tournament players competed on 18 holes divided into three groups. The first and second groups consisting of four holes while the third group consisted of 10 holes. The average score in all holes was 72. The player who scored 72 was above + and the player who scored less is under -.

In golf, the least number of points or hits scored means the best result.

The national coach of Egypt is Gerard Bent who is also the advisor to the Egyptian Golf Federation (EGF).

The game of golf in Egypt has a long and rich history dating back to the late 1800s when the British colonisers built the Gezira Sporting Club and Mena House golf course. By the early to mid-20th century Egypt boasted six fully functional courses: Heliopolis, Maadi, Gezira, Shams, Alexandria Sporting and Semouha. With the passing of time golf courses disappeared with the changing political climate with only Mena House, Alexandria Sporting and Gezira surviving the changes.

Once again the times are changing and golf in Egypt has recently experienced tremendous growth. Over the last decade golf has boomed with golf courses springing to life in all corners of Egypt spurred by demand for this prestigious and noble game. Presently there are golf courses not only in Cairo and Alexandria but in Hurghada (Soma Bay and El-Gouna), Sharm El-Sheikh, Taba, Ain Sokhna and Luxor. In addition, Cairo boasts six golf courses of the highest quality.

"There are 15 operational golf courses in Egypt and the sport is now regarded as a potential source of precious tourism income. With the diverse locations of the golf courses and the high quality of design, the federation in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism is actively promoting Egypt as a golf destination," said Khaled Abu Taleb, president of the EGF.

"With the tremendous growth, the federation's activities have also expanded. The numbers of golfers have greatly increased and its popularity is continuously growing.

"In addition to the busy local tournament calendar, the EGF regularly sends teams to participate in many international competitions including the Hellenic Amateur, Turkish Amateur, Pan-Arab Championships and All-Africa Challenge," Abu Taleb said.

The EGF will host the 26th Pan-Arab Championships at Dreamland Golf and Tennis Resort from 28 November to 4 December in association with the Royal and Ancient of St Andrews.

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