Aramco Team Series Golf Tournament

July 19, 2021
Aramco Team Series

Covid & quarantine rules have caused untold problems this year, effecting many events in my diary. Strangely it was probably responsible for me getting a last minute call up last week! I had the amazing experience of shooting 6 days at the Aramco Team Series Golf Tournament hosted by the stunning Centurion Club near St Albans.

Centurion Golf Club
Centurion Golf Club, 18th green & Clubhouse

With a lot of photographers stuck due to short notice, testing and quarantine problems, I was able to step in when Performance54 called to see if I was available, I grabbed it with both Nikon bodies!! I’ve shot corporate golf days before but this was a proper step up… this was an event on the Ladies European Tour. There was a prize fund of $1m at stake.

Before all the fun started there was very important job of the Covid PCR test. I had already taken a lateral flow test 24hrs before leaving for the venue. At the Centurion Club, I was temperature checked again and this time a PCR test was taken. Immediately from there it was off to my hotel and isolation awaiting the results. Some hours later the email with my ‘negative’ arrived and I was safe to join the ‘Tournament Bubble’. Daily health checks each morning to complete before we were allowed back into the venue.

Aramco Team Series - London - Round 1
Aramco Team Series – London – Round 1

Ahead lay 6 days of shooting. My brief was essentially to back up the main pro photographer, Paul. For 5yrs, Paul shot golf for Getty for before going freelance for almost the last 20 yrs. He understands golf photography, inside out and back to front. The photography coverage required on an event of this size, meant while Paul was out on-course, I’d be covering a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ photo calls. With only a few players arriving early, Monday was a great time to get out on the course.

Rain on golf course
Rain on 1st fairway

Try to find my way around and shoot tee box advertising boards without people in the way… not to mention get plenty of blue skies as the rain was coming!!!

Aramco Team Series - 1st Tee
Aramco Team Series – 1st Tee
Aramco Team Series - 1st Tee
Aramco Team Series – 1st Tee

Tuesday, the practice rounds were in full swing (see what I did there!) If some of the key players weren’t out on their practice rounds, their time was often required for other duties. Interviews to camera, or as with Amy & Emma, virtual online coaching clinics. Viewers all around the world were logging in & watching the tips Live streamed from these top players.

Amy Boulden holding a virtual coaching clinic
Amy Boulden holding a virtual coaching clinic
Emma Cabrera-Bello holding a virtual coaching clinic
Emma Cabrera-Bello holding a virtual coaching clinic

The Aramco Team Series is unique. We have all heard of ProAm in golf, Pros and Amateurs play together in a round of golf and have a great day. This was different, VERY different. Here 3 Pros were joined by 1 Amateur to make up a team, to play competitive tournament golf over 3 days. Each team had a captain, who using an ‘American football NFL-style’ draft would pick their first player. Each team would then be randomly allocated a third professional teammate and a competing amateur. As well as competing for the team trophy and prize money, the professionals also vie for an individual title.

Aramco Team Series golf tournament
Former Champion jockey, AP McCoy watching it all the way
Double amputee George Blackshaw golfer
Double amputee George Blackshaw absolutely RIPPING IT off the 1st Tee
The ProAm always produces great bunker shots

Wednesday, ProAm Day. Celebs and invited amateurs arrived for today. 18 holes on an LET tournament standard golf course, what is there not to enjoy. It was fun but everybody still wanted to play well. Maximum effort off the tee, maximum concentration out of the bunkers!

Thursday, first round of the tournament had arrived…

First tee times were away early. Paul was already out performing his photo wizardry on the course. I had chance to try a few creative branding imagery ideas around the Golf Village.

Performance Zone
Golf Village – Performance Zone
golf ball and club
Aramco Team Series
Aramco Team Series - Brew92 Coffee
Aramco Team Series – Brew92 Coffee
Aramco Team Series - Hatfield Bentley
Aramco Team Series – Hatfield Bentley

With most of our event supporting photo calls delivered, the tournament golf was now our main focus. As I mentioned, I’d shot some corporate golf days before this event, but the standard of golf was amazing. Massive drives off the tee…

Rachel Drummond lady golfer
Rachel Drummond

Careful control with the irons on those birdie holes.

Ladies European tour golf
Olivia Cowan on the Par 3 5th
Lexi Thompson

Sublime skill around the green and the approach shots…

Georgia Hall
Georgia Hall
Chipping in on the 18th
Chipping in on the 18th
Georgia Hall putts in for a Par
Georgia Hall putts in for a Par
Rachel Drummond lines up a putt
Rachel Drummond lines up a putt in Aramco Team Series

Not everything went to plan…

Laura Davies Ian Skelton Photography
Laura Davies doesn’t like that one much…
Carmen Alonso bunker shot
Carmen Alonso fully focused
Aramco Team Series Ian Skelton Photography

But after 3 days, 72 holes it all came down to 2 shots on the 18th for Team Cowan and individually Marianne Skarpnord.

Centurion Club 18th Green from the Clubhouse
18th Green from the Clubhouse
lady golfer celebrating
Marianna Skarpnord winner of the Individual
Marianna Skarpnord celebrating with great friend Camilla Lennarth
Aramco Team Series Winners
Captain Olivia Cowan sinks the final putt for Team Cowan, winners of the Aramco Team Series, Round One – London
Aramco Team Series winners Team Cowan

That was it, 6 days shooting, 8500 images edited down, 38 miles walked around the course… my first taste of top level tournament golf was over. Great experience working alongside somebody like Paul. I learnt a lot, so thank you…. and I even made SkySports!!

Even made Sky Sports…

Thank you to Performance54 for asking me to be part of your media team for the week. It was full on but fantastic fun… I very much look forward to shooting for you again some time. The Aramco Team Series now moves on to Spain in August, followed by New York and Jeddah… I’m double jabbed and a new blue passport, if you need a man with a Nikon!!

Performance54 purple flag

For me the next stop is Silverstone Classic with all the adrenaline that a Historic Racing pit lane has in store. So pop back in a few weeks to see images of the largest Historic Racing meeting in the world…

By Skelly

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