EGC’s Course Superintendent Matt Perry hopes to deliver a ‘fair’ test for star-studded field

Perry said that the 18th green on the Majlis has produced some memorable stories ‘and that 'it's very important for us that we keep that history going’

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Matthew Perry has marshalled his team to present the Emirates Golf Club's Majlish Course in tip-top condition for the HERO Dubai Desert Clasic which starts on Thursday, Jan 18. - Supplied photo
Matthew Perry has marshalled his team to present the Emirates Golf Club's Majlish Course in tip-top condition for the HERO Dubai Desert Clasic which starts on Thursday, Jan 18. - Supplied photo

Published: Wed 17 Jan 2024, 11:02 PM

When the final putt is taken at the 35th HERO Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday one of the happiest people watching at the Emirates Golf Club’s history-laden 18th green will be a distinguished figure watching intently.

Just as he has done for the past 14 years Matthew Perry will be the first to applaud the winner and also himself, and his team, for delivering yet another outstanding golf course to test the world’s best golfers. As the EGC's course superintendent Perry has been responsible for the overall maintenance and management of the jewel in Dubai’s porting crown.

The 18th, which is protected by a wide lake on the front and a yawning sand bunker to its rear is laden with history and a memoir of triumph and tragedy. It is iconic and arguably one of the best finishing holes in the Middle East, if not the world.

What goes into maintaining such a sporting treasure that has been taken on some of the greats of the game including Seve Ballesteros (1992), Ernie Els (1994, ‘02, ‘05), Tiger Woods (2006, ‘08) and Rory McIlroy (2009, ‘15 ‘23).

“When there is a hole like that you don’t have to conduct any changes,” Perry told Khaleej Times. “What it's produced in the past is memorable and it's very important for us that we keep that history going.”

Perry, who has been associated with golf in the UAE since 2009, and has been the course superintendent for the past six years, acknowledges that his task of delivering a course that provides a fair test is not the easiest.

“The main thing is that I have a great team who have worked very hard to produce the best possible golf course,” he said, ”Everybody’s been working every day since January 1 leading into the tournament preparation week. Long days from 3 am to 9 pm.

“But I am most proud of the team effort that goes into delivering a perfect golf course. They make me look good. You can’t be a leader without a good team. That’s what I love the most.”

Perry has a staff of 60 under his wing and closer to the Dubai Desert Classic may also require help from interns and part-time workers given the monumental task of showcasing the Middle East's most famous golf course in its best form.

“The aim is to deliver a golf course that offers a fair test,” he said. “A fair test is when you are rewarded for good shots and penalized for a bad shot.

“We have conducted some maintenance work around the course, the rough and the fairways, by overseeding while paying the utmost attention to the very pure greens.

“If you get it on the greens you can make some true putts but it will test you if you go off line forcing you to play it differently,” added Perry.

“It is also important to ensure that you find the perfect balance, a middle path. You don’t want a course record to be broken by making it easier for the pros who are only getting better and better.

“Rory (McIlroy) won last year on 19-under while a couple of years ago the winner shot nine under which was a pretty rough year. So the key is to find the middle path to those scores,” he said.

Commenting on the overall condition of the course, Perry, who has previously worked in Bahrain and at the Dubai Creek Resort, said: “This is the third tournament for the new greens. They normally take time to develop before they reach their pinnacle, which I believe they have now reached.

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“They have good speed and are firm. The EGC is an old course and we have had to mend it in to protect it,” added Perry. “The calibre of player in this tournament is always very good and we do what we can to protect the golf course a little bit and make it a little bit more challenging for the pros.”

I hope you’re reading this Rory.

leslie@khaleejtimes.com


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