Local golfers from around the UAE are relishing the opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest names on the European Senior Tour when they compete in the Amateur and Professional Qualifier on Sunday, February 12, at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club.
Two precious places will be up for grabs when nine of the Emirates’ finest fight it out in the Gross Qualifier for the chance to play in the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq from Thursday, March 16-18 at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club.
David Stevenson and Chris Vallender from the UAE PGA will be up against seven of the leading amateurs in the region with handicaps below 2.4.
Rene Larsen, from Jumeirah Golf Estates; Yves Buchard, from The Els Club; Graham Birnie of Abu Dhabi City Golf Club and Steve Kelshaw from Al Zora Golf Club will individually take on the formidable Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club threesome of Ramli Sulaiman, Paul Nightingale and George Liu. Larsen, Birnie and Nightingale are first off the tee at 7:40am; followed by Vallender, Sulaiman and Stevenson at 7:50 and Buchard, Kelshaw and Liu at 8:0.
Chris Vallender, former coach of the UAE National team can’t wait for Sunday morning to come around. “It was a great initiative for Shurooq, Sharjah and the Tour to involve the local amateurs and professionals by giving us the opportunity of joining in the fun. I’m sure it’s going to be a great experience playing against so many great players from the European Senior Tour. It was certainly the right thing to do. It’s brilliant for two of us to have the chance to make it into the main tournament.
“To have a European Senior Tour event in the UAE is long overdue. The last time was in Abu Dhabi back in 2000 when Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan won. Being the first time a Tour event has been played on a 9-hole course will attract a lot of attention to Sharjah.
“Golf needs to have a greater appeal to bring more people into the game. If golf’s equivalent of cricket’s Twenty20 works as well, that will be a huge boost. We always like to safeguard the etiquette of golf but we’ve got to speed up the game and make it more fun for newcomers. We could utilise the Par-3 Academy courses and get families involved, even if only for two or three hours in the evening. Maybe we’ll start to see some 6-hole fun tournaments.
“The Senior Tour events are always good fun. The players are more relaxed and more entertaining than they are on the Regular Tour so I’m sure the spectators will enjoy the event. I hope I’m one of the lucky two to make it into the main event but if I’m not I’ll certainly be at the Sharjah Senior Masters from Thursday to Saturday to soak up the atmosphere. The Pro-Ams on Tuesday and Wednesday will also be a big draw.”
Nick Tarratt, Director, European Tour, Dubai Office, commented: “Local participation is a key part of the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters, whether volunteers, the National Final or this Gross Qualifier on Sunday. We wish all the competitors the best of luck for this exciting opportunity.’
Various golf clubs in the UAE are hosting their own qualifiers and their respective winner and runner-up along with the club captain will seal spots in the National Final held at the Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club on Sunday, February 12.
The National Final’s top three qualify to play in the first of two Sharjah Senior Golf Masters Pro-Ams which take place on March 14.