Last month I was fortunate to be invited to play in the OMEGA Dubai Ladies Masters held from 14th to 17th December. It was an invaluable experience to play alongside some of the best lady golfers in the world. I am indebted to the organisers – Golf in Dubai for extending this fantastic chance to a young golfer who has learned most of her game here in the Emirates. Strangely I was not overcome with “stage fright” which seemed to worry my dad! However on day 1, I had an early morning start from hole 10, pulling my first shot into the damp rough and ending up with a bogey, on the second hole – the tricky par 3, I was destined for an even worse score after pulling my tee shot into the sandy wasteland alongside the scoreboard, followed by a pitch shot that overshot the green, fortunately my return pitch hit the pin and went into the hole to make an unlikely par amidst great jubilation and high-fives with Luke Cantello who bravely offered to caddy for me. This piece of luck really settled my game and I played the rest of the round much more solidly which was punctuated with two birdies on the two par 5 holes, the 13th and the 2nd, and narrowly lipped out for a par round on the final hole (which was the 9th) , to finish on 73 which put me at 53rd out of a field of 108 and was the best first day score by an amateur making their debut in the event. So I suppose I should be satisfied that I did not let my supporters and GiD down in having confidence in me to play at this level! My playing partners were Charlie Douglas who is playing her first year as a pro and was the leading English Amateur for the last two years and Melodie Bourdy of France, they were both great.
The second day was a real education, although I hit the ball as well as ever, lapses in concentration can quickly start adding strokes to your score faster than a “flash flood” can fill a Wadi in the Omani mountains! Needless to say, I ended up much lower in the field on day 2, but the learning curve was much greater and although I was indeed very sad not to make the cut, the reality of competing at this level was brought home very quickly and the realization that playing professional golf is not all glamour but more about hard work and being able to perform under pressure was again an invaluable experience. It made me realize just how tough it is for the pro’s to pick themselves up after a setback and move on to the next tournament!
Before the tournament, I was lucky to have a very sympathetic schedule leading up to the ODLM which provided ideal preparation, which included two ladies open’s at Al Ghazal Golf Club and my home course at Yas Links Golf Club both of which I managed to win, this was followed by an invitation to represent the EGF team in the Dubai World Championship PRO-AM, our team of Khalid Yousaf, Daniel Hendry and myself playing alongside professional Rhys Davies never stood a chance of being in the medals as our joint team handicap was below par, and to be honest I don’t think any of us cared about that, we all played our very best and managed a very respectable 7 under for the team, including yours truly getting the longest drive ( I had a 30 yd advantage playing of the ladies tee !!) ; and I hope we three youngsters kept Rhys on his toes and wish him all the best for the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and The Dubai Classic in February, Rhys and his caddy were great and were really interested in passing on tips to us youngsters, and thank you to the Emirates Golf Federation for inviting us to play for their team in such a big event !
The day before the ODLM, “ golf in Dubai” kindly let me play in their PRO-AM team led by the tour-pro Hanna Jun, which really helped to get a feel for the course in championship condition. Hanna was great, she introduced me to all the younger tour players who were at the gala dinner after the event, I could see that they weren’t really that much older than myself, perhaps in the early twenties as opposed to me being a 15 year old; they were all very encouraging and wished me luck.
Finally I would really like to thank “golf in Dubai” (giD) for letting youngsters volunteer in their events, I have been a volunteer marshal at the Dubai Ladies Masters for the last four years ever since I was 11 years old, and I remember walking alongside the players sometimes in the company of my dad or mum who also volunteer their time at events, doing your best to marshal by holding up the “Please Keep Quite”, “No Cameras”, “Stand Still Please” signs whilst the players play their shots or keeping score, or manning crossing points or even being a volunteer “ball spotter” gives you such an insight and education into the game, you learn so much that you could never do as a mere spectator ! However whilst playing in the event it was surreal at times, seeing players who only last year were on the “other side” of the ropes when I was volunteering; and were now walking up an adjoining fairway whilst you were preparing to hit the greens or teeing off, and it was even more surreal to have many of them come and congratulate me after day one; and pass on their advice on day two to not be “too hard on yourself” after a “bad day at the office”…….. “time passes and things happen” said Mel Reid, others all reassured me that “they too have been there too……….its not the end of the world if you don’t make the cut !”