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Khalid Yousuf is one of the region's brightest prospects.
Khalid Yousuf is one of the region's brightest prospects.

Future looks bright with plenty of UAE golfers in waiting

Officials at the Emirates Golf Federation must be excited to see the enthusiasm of young Emirati golfers waiting to follow in the footsteps of Khalid Yousuf.

Omar Abdulkarim and Obaid Khalid, both 15 and good friends, posed for a few photographs, using their mobile phones, on Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club's greens before getting down to the more serious business of sharpening their putting skills.

Studying together at Al Khaleej National School in Dubai, Abdulkarim was introduced to golf by Khalid about three months ago and he has since been in love with the game.

"I also play football and basketball, but I am really enjoying golf now," said Abdulkarim, who watched Tiger Woods, his favourite player, in action at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year.

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Omar bin Ashur, 16, is also a recent convert to the sport and dreams of playing for his country.

"I played a bit of football, but golf is my first and last game now, and I hope to play for the national team one day," said the Mohammed bin Rashid School student, who started playing six months ago.

"I came to a golf course for the first time with my parents. I saw the game and I wanted to learn golf, which I am doing now."

Khalifa al Thani has spent longer on the golf courses and said: "My cousin invited me and then I liked the game and started playing it. The thing I like about golf is that it is very absorbing. Sometimes when you are playing and not doing well, it's not fun. But when you play a very good shot, you feel really happy."

Officials at the Emirates Golf Federation must be excited to see the enthusiasm of these teenagers for they part of the ambitious National Junior Programme, launched to introduce young Emiratis to the game, and hopefully follow in the footsteps of Khalid Yousuf, one of the region's brightest young golf prospects.

"They are very enthusiastic, these kids," Saeed Albudoor, the general manager of the Emirates Golf Federation, as he watched the future of UAE golf competing in a new Par-3 tournament. "Their parents are caddying for them, walking with them, encouraging them."

Among the parents, Akram Skaik, director of Mashreqbank's institutional investments division and vice-chairman of Young Arab Leaders, seemed as excited as the participants, offering advices not just to his two sons, Fatah and Ahmed, but virtually to everyone.

"I have two boys [playing golf] and my brother's boys as well, so we have four in the family," he said. "Adding myself, we are five.

"Unfortunately, I started late. After a long, long time of playing soccer . I have decided to move to something else and I am doing golf now.

"My boys are also into soccer, but I told them let's try something else and they are getting into it now. Fatah is 16 and Ahmed is 14, so that's the right age to start playing golf. Hopefully, they will be with the national team."

The children of Mohammed al Heloo and Mansour al Amadi have started at an even earlier age. Reema al Heloo is eight and her brother Obaid is a year younger. Rashid al Amadi is nine and his sister Aliya is two years his junior.

The four might not be in realm of prodigies yet, but they do show potential and enjoy themselves on the golf course.

"My kids started around one month back and they are feeling good, feeling happy," said Mohammed al Heloo. "In sport, if you don't start at a very early age, it's hard. It's like when you study."

"One of my friends, he took us to the Al Badia course one day," said Mansour al Amadi, who has never played golf. "There we heard about this programme for national kids and I decided bring my children for it.

"So now for a year, I am taking my children every week to Al Badia and I am very happy to see them playing.

"This is a really good programme for UAE nationals. Golf is a new sport for us because most people play only football. I am really happy to see all these new sports coming on, lots of new activities for the children."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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