UAE Golf Columnist Archives

It is time to nurture UAE champions at home

We have seen great players in the country but we must not forget the future

Surely it must be some sort of record; there were at least three brother and sister combinations that played in the OMEGA Dubai Ladies Masters and the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic this year. There were Alexis and Nicolas Thompson, Melodie and Gregory Bourdy and Emma and Rafael Cabrero Bello. It is even more interesting to note that the two winners; Alexis (Lexi) Thompson who won the ODLM  and Rafael Cabrero Bello who won the men’s event both came from these brother-sister combinations, surely that in itself must be some sort of record. And there was a stage when Gregory Bourdy was in contention but a few untimely bogies put an end to his chances and he certainly let his emotions show when he dispatched his ball into the lake on the 18th after missing his putt for birdie at the end of the third round. No doubt the ball found comfort amongst the hundreds of other balls huddled together at the bottom of the lake! It certainly wasn’t the first time a ball has found itself dispatched to a watery grave on the 18th, I have seen both Laura Davies and Melissa Reid along with several others hurl their little “rocks” into the same water….there must be a fortune to be made for anyone willing to do a bit of fishing with a rod !

I couldn’t attend day one of the OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic because of school but came early on Friday intending to follow Rory McIlroy who had been spending some time with my coach Justin at the Butch Harmon Academy down the road, but my good friend Vietnga Petersen from back in the days when we were part of the “three musketeers ” along with Maho Hayakawa, twisted my arm to join the last group of the day that she was marshaling as a volunteer. This group included Rafael Cabrero Bello who had hit an astounding 63 on day one; as it turned out it was an excellent decision to follow his group and Rafael continued to play some outstanding golf. On Day Three I followed Martin Kaymer, who must be the best striker of the ball with fairway woods that I have seen, I have seen every one of his rounds at Abu Dhabi Golf Championships over the last four years and it was a real shock to see that the three-time champion didn’t make the cut on “The National” in late January. I was hoping he would do really well in Dubai, but his putts just didn’t want to go in!!

Nevertheless we were all treated to a great recovery on the par 4 12th where he hit a hooked punch shot around some trees out of the sandy wasteland left of the fairway, it was an awesome shot which went low and around some trees and into the wind and must have carried about 220 yds landing on the green and saving par! Gregory Bourdy also played in the same group and played some great golf with real passion, not unlike his sister with whom I had played two rounds in the ODLM in December, she too played with great passion and did not hesitate to let the ball know if it was misbehaving!

Last month it was Abu Dhabi’s turn to showcase its great golf course and what a show it was, the great Tiger Woods made his debut in the Capital, I followed Tiger on day three and four and there were some great shots he hit and at times his putting was awesome. We may not have seen Tiger at his very best throughout the round but there were enough times we saw some glimpses of his very best. Like on day four his 50 ft putt from off the green on hole 2 to make birdie or his approach shot on the 14th was absolutely spectacular, a fantastic draw shot directly on target or his 200 yd approach shot out of the rough on hole 9 was perfectly hit to 8 feet of the pin which was positioned in the top right hand corner guarded by the bunker! However Robert Rock was playing magnificently and encouraged by an entourage of enthusiastic supporters, eventually emerged as a worthy winner.

Robert Rock is talking about having an academy in Abu Dhabi, bringing the game to youngsters, which can only be a good thing, but what will happen as the juniors get better and want to play a round of golf? At the moment there are no comparable “junior rates” available for aspiring junior golfers as the rates available to juniors in say England where a junior can play a round of golf for 5 pounds (30 dirhams !); how many juniors will play a round of golf for around 400 or 500 dirhams? And how many will continue to play at that rate several times a month to improve their on-course skills?

At the moment I am busy working on my GCSE Media Studies Project which is essentially about “Healthy Life Styles” and encouraging “Healthy Living ” ……………………………so on that theme ………perhaps the solution to popularizing golf amongst students and youngsters in Abu Dhabi is to introduce SNAG golf as part of the sports curriculum in schools, my brother Saad who learned his golf here in Abu Dhabi before deciding to study medicine, spends his free time working alongside Tim a recently retired Cancer Specialist, teaching SNAG Golf to inner-city students in East London.

So far after about a year, they have had just over 1000 children of all ages introduced to the game, the main purpose is to encourage early participation in outdoor sports in an enjoyable environment which can be carried into a lifetime passion of staying active and healthy, a sort of preventative medicine. SNAG Golf uses oversize golf clubs and “tennis balls” and can be played on an area about the size of half a football field or even less and it doesn’t have to be grass! It can be set up in a few minutes and be enjoyed by players of all abilities; even Michelle Wie has recently said she enjoyed playing “Campus Golf” alongside novices with tennis balls at Stanford University where the hole was the fountain on campus!
Professor Tim has got the support of Simon Khan and Colin Montgomerie plus some tour pros from the Ladies European Tour for his project and Simon Khan does golf clinics in the East End of London when not on tour, which is really great.
Perhaps this is the way forward for golf here too! More time playing and being active is certainly better than stuffing yourself with burgers!  If Professor Tim and my brother can bring the game to a thousand kids in their spare time, how many kids would benefit if the program was full time?

Sana Tufail

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