At the beginning of the week, I was invited to contribute a blog on UAE Golf Online from a junior Golf perspective, an honor that I could not refuse. !
Then on Monday, for the first time since it started about 10 years ago, the UAE won in the annual challenge match between UAE Juniors and UK Juniors. Both teams are made up of the leading juniors living in the UAE and the leading players from the United Kingdom resulted in 6.5 to 5.5 victory for the UAE team in the better-ball match-play format. The UAE team included three members of the national team, Khalid Yousef and the Al Musharrakh brothers Ahmed and Hasan as well as the two young pros Joel Neale and Andy Andrews, all of whom I remember as 10-year-olds playing with my brother Saad in the JDP par 3 competitions many moons ago.
I hasten to add that our pair lost 1 UP and was indeed flattered to read the report by the EGF which described the match between Daniel Hendry and me against Lauren Taylor and Oliver Walsh as a “shock 1 UP loss”! Did whoever penned the report for the EGF really expect two youngsters from the “desert” to defeat a team which included Lauren Taylor who has played in the RICOH British Ladies Open this year and is ranked 25th in the World Amateur Ladies Order of Merit? Well I suppose they did, because three days later Daniel Hendry who was the UAE sponsors invite from Dubai actually went on to win the “Daily Telegraph” Junior Tournament sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority on the National Course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club; the very same championship course that the great Martin Kaymer won the men’s professional event three times!! The “Daily Telegraph” Junior finals are played by the leading 11 boys and 9 leading girls from the UK, with a “sponsors, invite” extended to the leading UAE boy, but no such invitation extended to girls, I suppose there is hope next year!
Can it get any better for juniors playing golf in the UAE? Like so many of us, Daniel obviously developed his game on the courses of the UAE, however he has been fortunate to be selected to play in the Scottish Junior team and has honed his talents, with regular international tournaments playing for Scotland in Europe and that is where the problem in developing junior golf in the UAE lays, ………regular international competition at a high enough standard is absent for young players in the UAE. They are starved of quality competition and hence can only develop to a certain standard based on local competition.
I have been fortunate to travel to England and Scotland over the last three summers during school vacations and compete against the best girls in Europe. This year I played in the RICOH British Ladies Pre-Qualifier on the 6100 yd “The Berkshire”, I made two mistakes which cost me 4 shots, which in the end was the difference of making the “ cut “or not, I ended up halfway in a field of 120 ladies most of whom were LET Pro’s, it was part of a learning curve, I was not disappointed, as this time I went for the experience. I have always been keen in observing the strengths and skills of stronger players; and have returned back to Abu Dhabi each year, making a note of their strengths and working on improving my game with the help of my coach.
It is really great to hear that there is going to be a new “test series” which will see the UAE National Team play against the visiting Scottish National Team at my home club, “The Yas Links Golf Club” which incidentally has already been acknowledged as a “top 100” course in the world. These test-matches played over 36 holes will pit the 6 best UAE players against a team of 6 Scottish national team players currently embarking on their month-long warm weather practice at Yas Links; this can only be good for the game here in the UAE………. Which brings me to my current dilemma……… When will girls be encouraged to “raise” their game here? When will the OMEGA Dubai Ladies Masters allow a girl who has learned and played most of her golf in the UAE play in the event? When will the Daily Telegraph and ADTA invite a UAE-based Girl to play in their annual Junior Championship Event? Whenever this happens we can say that Junior Golf (especially for girls) in the UAE has truly moved on to the next level!
On a personal level this week, I am quite satisfied with my game, playing to my plus 1 handicap and winning three “Order of Merit titles” – Abu Dhabi Ladies Open, Yas Links Open and the NBAD Ladies Open, but there is always room for improvement and I always remember the words of the 2009 Dubai Ladies Masters winner I. K. Kim “ if you are not getting better, then you are getting worse” !
Main Photo: Challenge Match