ABU DHABI // It did not take long before the redundancy became obvious.
Standing on the practice range at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, surrounded by many of the best players in the world, Sohail Al Marzouqi fielded a variation of the same question for the umpteenth time in recent weeks.
Friends, relatives, other players, and now media, all want to know.
He laughed and said: "Everyone keeps asking: 'Are you nervous, are you nervous?' I'm not nervous. I am excited. I just want to experience it."
It could be akin to a theme-park ride, minus the seat belt.
Al Marzouqi, a 20-year-old college student who was late to practice on Wednesday because he was taking an exam, will tee it up Thursday in one of the best events on the European Tour, where he can compare his score against professionals such as Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, who have been world No 1.
That notion hardly seems to have panicked him. The laid-back Dubai resident shrugged when asked about being an amateur guppy in a very deep pool filled with professional sharks.
"Living the dream," he said.
For once, that did not sound like a cliche. He won a qualifier at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to earn a spot in the field, and it clearly is the biggest stage on which he has ever appeared though he has played in a couple of high-level amateur events, including the Eisenhower Cup and the Asia-Pacific Amateur, the event run by the folks at Augusta National.
He will get a taste of elite golf this week. The Abu Dhabi event is about as good as it gets on the European circuit. As he stood on the range, a pile of new practice balls having just been placed at his feet by a range attendant, Paul McGinley walked over and shook his hand. About 12 hours earlier, McGinley had been named the European Ryder Cup captain.
Earlier in the week, Al Marzouqi played a practice round with the former British Open champion Todd Hamilton, who knows more jokes than any American player on the planet.
"Brilliant guy," said Al Marzouqi, who is a member of the UAE national team and has an interesting background. While he was born in the UAE, his mother is Japanese, and it was her side of the family that encouraged him to play golf.
His professional brethren might have a leg up on him as players, but Al Marzouqi is several shots up in the cerebral department.
He is one year away from graduating with a degree in chemical engineering. That makes him the only guy in the 126-man field who does not care how this turns out.
His future in the game?
"It's just a hobby to me," he said.
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