Muscat: Bill Longmuir, an eight-time winner on the European Senior Tour, was one of the proudest men in the Sultanate when he teed it up at last year's inaugural National Bank of Oman (NBO) Golf Classic at The Wave, Muscat.
The 61-year-old Scot is one of the founding fathers of golf in Oman and helped re-create the re-sited Ghala Wentworth sand course at Ghala Valley and establish the 18 holes grass course at Muscat Hills Golf and Country Club.
"It was an emotional moment for me last October playing as a sponsor's invite from the National Bank of Oman and I feel privileged that they have invited me again to play in this year's event. To be playing in the European Challenge Tour event among the future stars of The European Tour in the first professional golf event to be played in the Sultanate was a great honour," says Longmuir, who played for 16 years on The European Tour before switching to the European Senior Tour on reaching the qualifying age of 50.
Ahmed Al Musalmi, Chief Executive Officer of National Bank of Oman, said: "Bill has been one of the pioneers of golf in the Sultanate. We appreciate the work Bill did to help establish the sport in Oman and it will be good to see him here again for this second edition of the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic."
"I was enormously impressed with the tournament last year," says Longmuir, who has earned €1,377,048 in prize-money so far during his 11 years on the European Senior Tour.
"Everything about the event was outstanding. It was run on thoroughly professional lines and every detail had been covered.
"The organisation was spot on and it looked as though the players were enjoying the challenge. The spectators I spoke to certainly enjoyed the event.
"I'd heard a lot of good things about the Greg Norman-designed course but I'd never actually played it until last year's tournament. Fortunately, the wind didn't blow too hard and the youngsters on the Challenge Tour showed just how good they are. The distances they were hitting the ball were
frightening. Greg's course is tough but fair, whatever the weather conditions, and you've got to hit it long and straight."
Longmuir is a long-term friend of Norman and often stayed with the 'Great White Shark' in Florida to practice in the winter months when the weather in the UK was at its worst. "It was wonderful to see how golf in Muscat had progressed so much," says Longmuir, who finished in a share of 33rd at last year's tournament.
"National Bank of Oman have achieved so much with their sponsorship of this tournament. The National Bank of Oman Golf Classic was as good, if not better, than many of the professional golf events I've played in over the years.
"It was a major milestone to establish this tournament at a time when golf sponsorship is tough. It's a huge step forward for golf, tourism and business in Oman. It will certainly help grow the economy of the Sultanate and it creates the opportunity for the golf courses and hotels to create packages for golf tourists to visit Oman.
"The Sultanate of Oman is a fabulous place and I'm sure that once golf tourists start to visit, it will encourage more and more visitors for years to come. The other wonderful aspect of golf in Oman is that Omanis are eager to take up the game.
"If the schoolchildren can be introduced to the game at an early age then I'm sure that we'd see a whole new generation of golfers. I appreciate that a great deal has been done to generate interest among the juniors but you can't do too much to introduce them to the game at every level. "I'm sure the second instalment of National Bank of Oman Golf Classic will be another great tournament and I can't wait to come over to Muscat and enjoy the event."