The Royal Golf Club’s (RGC) new men’s and ladies’ captains formally took charge for the 2023-24 season at a festive ceremony yesterday.
Incoming captains Shaikh Abdulla Khalifa Al Khalifa and Lauga Sigfusdottir received their blazers from the outgoing duo of Ronan Armstrong and Cristina Fantechi to huge applause from a large audience of RGC members and other golfers in the club’s patio, next to the swimming pool.
With the RGC’s head of golf operations Sam Hobday acting as the MC, the club’s chairman Captain Waleed Al-Alawi thanked the assemblage for being part of what he called a “lovely community”.
“I’d like to thank you all for being part of this lovely community over the years,” he said.
“Many changes have happened over the past few months to the course we all love and spend so much time on. And many more changes and big things are set to come.”
With the Bahrain Championship, part of the DP World Tour which returns to the kingdom after 13 years, set to take place at the RGC next February, His Majesty King Hamad – a keen golfer himself – was closely monitoring the progress being made in readying the course, which has already undergone a major upgrade, in time for the tournament, Al-Alawi said.
So were His Majesty’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Supreme Council for Youth and Sports (SCYS) first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority (GSA) chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC) president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, he added.
“Shaikh Khalid has actually already visited the RGC a couple of times to see how things are going,” Al-Alawi said.
“And we have our general manager Juan Manuel Perez to thank for all the wonderful changes that are taking place. Juan, thank you so much for doing such a wonderful job!”
The audience turned as one to look to a table at the back where Perez was sitting and applauded and cheered.
“I have one request for you, though, Juan,” Al-Alawi continued, smiling.
“We have to win international recognition for being one of the most improved clubs. Waiting for you and your team to accomplish that!”
The assemblage roared its approval as Perez also smiled and nodded.
Then, it was time for Armstrong to take the microphone.
“It has been a great pleasure and honour for me to be your captain for the last year,” he said.
“Thank you members and staff alike and also to everyone who’s helped me. Big thanks to Sam and his team, too.
“We all agree that the improvements we have been seeing are all fantastic … and they’ve got nothing to do with my captaincy. I can’t take any credit for them!”
A ripple of laughter coursed through the audience.
Fantechi’s turn to speak came next.
“I just want to thank everybody: operations, food and beverages manager, just everyone who was ever-present to help me,” she said.
“During this past year, we organised around 57 competitions and I would like to express my gratitude again to all the ladies who always supported me. And, thank you to my vice-captain Sonia Scott and Juan.
“Most importantly, I want to thank my lovely husband, Filippo. He’s been so patient this past year … I mean, extra patient, considering the last 26 years!”
Everyone in the audience guffawed as Filippo grinned and waved to his wife.
Finally, it was time for the new captains to receive their blazers – and for the sweetest moment of the afternoon.
Fantechi helped Sigfusdottir into her blazer and, as Armstrong did the same to Shaikh Abdulla, the latter’s four-year-old daughter Shaikha Hessa walked over to present her father with a beautiful bouquet.
“Aww, isn’t that absolutely wonderful,” someone in the audience gushed as Shaikh Abdulla, smiling widely, bent down to give his daughter a big hug.