Chris Vallender, the coach of the UAE national golf team, believes a first Arab championship is within reach of his players at the Citrus Course in Hammamet, Tunisia this weekend.
Vallender has overseen a steady year of improvement by the four young Emiratis on the men's team since they were narrowly edged out by a strong Bahrain line-up in the tournament staged at Ras Al Khaimah last year.
"With due respect to Bahrain, who have proved that they are the team to beat, we have to think that we are capable of taking the trophy this time," Vallender said. The coach is confident that Ahmed al Musharrekh, who has taken over the role of leading Emirati this year after earning a handicap of plus four, his elder brother Abdulla, Khalid Yousuf and Saeed Malik will rise to the occasion. Ahmed al Musharrekh arrived in Tunisia at the top of his game having a week ago earned a place in the Egyptian Open professional tournament by finishing fourth in the amateur qualifying event.
"All four of our players are capable of good scores so we are entitled to think about victory this time," Vallender said. Khalid Mubarek, the team manager and captain, was also upbeat. "What happened last year was a great learning curve and now the boys know what to expect from the championship," he said. "The boys have been training pretty hard and I am sure we will return home with something to cheer about.
"The championship is all about maintaining consistency and clicking as a unit. Everyone will have to chip in with a good score if we aim to do well. Hassan al Musharrekh, youngest of the three talented brothers, also travelled to Tunisia as part of a UAE junior team, along with two members of another emerging golfing family Faisal and Sohail al Marzouqui.