DUBAI // What is it they say about London buses? You wait an age for one and then two come along at once? Well, instead of the English capital and its famous red double-deckers, think the UAE and professional golfers.
Ahmed Al Musharrekh, the Emirati who last week became the country's first graduate from the amateur ranks, seems to be inspiring a nation.
"When I read he was turning professional I was so excited," said Saif Thabet, an Emirati amateur looking to use the Mena Tour to take his game to the next level, too.
"It's great. Finally we've got a UAE national who's professional. This is a real step forward for us.
"Ahmed's young, ambitious and a very talented golfer. UAE nationals need to look at this and get more involved. They should view this sport as a profession."
Thabet is certainly doing that. Having dedicated 15 years of his life to carving a career in international showjumping, the Abu Dhabi-born golfer has hung up the jodhpurs and slipped, seamlessly it seems, back into the plus-fours.
"I started golf when I was nine years old," he says.
"So when I came back from showjumping the swing was already there, it was just a bit rusty. All I had to do was get a couple of buckets of balls and keep practising on the range.
"I was totally committed. I worked in the morning, went to university in the afternoon and then at night I'd go back to the driving range for a couple of hours until it was time to go home. And it'd be the same thing the next day.
"Now, having graduated, I've even more time to focus on golf. I've got a schedule in place to achieve my short-, medium- and long-term goals in the game, because I see potential. I want to take it to the next level."
That potential was enough to propel Thabet, on the back of a few months' practice, on to the UAE national team for last year's Nomura Cup in Fiji.
Now, 25, with a degree in Human Resource Management complete, he expects to emulate Al Musharrekh by the aend of the year.
Rounds of 81 and 79 at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club Open ensured Thabet missed the cut in the Mena opener, yet that has not dulled his desire to mix it with the big boys; anything but.
"This is a great experience. It's an official tour and to be a part of it and play alongside the professionals is amazing," he says. "I'm not there yet but this is very inspiring and motivating.
"It just makes me want to practice harder because I want to be a professional, be among them and compete against them.
"I want to gain the experience, make my mistakes then go back to the range and learn from them. Just like the pros do.
"After the Mena Tour I've simply got to play as much as I can. If I stop I'm not going to get any better. I even bought my own putting mat for my bedroom just to practise in the morning.
"I'm trying to brainwash myself. That's the only way."
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