x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ahmed Al Musharrekh looks to stake UAE golf flag in Abu Dhabi

The chance to make an impact on the tournament is not lost on the confident amateur, who is looking to turn professional this year.

Ahmed Al Musharrek hopes to make the cut at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Ahmed Al Musharrek hopes to make the cut at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Ahmed Al Musharrekh, the UAE's top-ranked national golfer, is hoping to become the first Emirati to make the cut at this month's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Al Musharrekh, the top Emirati from last year's debut Mena (Middle East and North Africa) Tour, which was played out across four UAE courses, narrowly missed the cut on his maiden Abu Dhabi appearance as an amateur in 2010.

"It really is an amazing opportunity," said Al Musharrekh, 21, who secured an invitation to contest the event from Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, the Championship organisers.

"I just want to play freely and enjoy the experience. Some of the greatest players in the history of the game are playing so there is definitely going to be some pressure, but my goal is to make the cut and, if I do, I'll be doing my best to move up the leader board and really compete."

The chance to make an impact on the tournament, which starts on January 26 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, is not lost on the confident amateur, who is looking to turn professional this year.

"When I played in the Championship a few years ago I was still very young and inexperienced," he said. "My game has improved a lot in the past few years and I am lot more confident of making the cut and getting my place in the history books. I feel relaxed and I'm going to go out and have some fun - it's the only way I know."

Arguably the strongest field ever assembled for a Middle East tournament stands in Al Musharrekh's way.

Tiger Woods, the winner of 14 majors and possibly the greatest golfer in history, is the star attraction as he makes his Abu Dhabi debut.

The supporting cast is led by Luke Donald, the world No 1, Martin Kaymer, the defending champion and three-time Abu Dhabi winner, and three reigning major champions - Charl Schwartzel (US Masters), Rory McIlroy (US Open) and Darren Clarke (British Open).

Using a consistent, globe-trotting season last year as a form guide, Al Musharrekh seems better positioned to challenge the world's best.

After representing the UAE in September's Asian Amateur Championship in Singapore - he produced the best performance by an Emirati on the international circuit by finishing 24th out of the 120-strong field - Al Musharrekh helped the UAE team to their finest performance at the Nomura Cup, the top amateur competition in Asia and Australasia.

Inspired by their star player, the squad also finished third in the team standings at the Arab Golf Championship in Morocco, while Al Musharrekh also represented the UAE in the Arab Games in Doha, Qatar, where he won two gold medals, one on his own and one with the UAE team.

Musharrekh has previously said he does not enjoy practising, telling The National last October that "the explanation for this is that it's boring. The thrill of competition is everything. I would play tournaments every week if I could".

However, his recent good performances appear to have made him more motivated.

"I was more excited about golf and played very well throughout the year," said Al Musharrekh, who balances life as an amateur golfer with studying for a business management degree at the American University in Dubai. "I was more motivated, I wanted to do well against the best amateurs around the world. The confidence is now there and if I stick to the game plan, and not try to play too aggressively, I will hopefully have another great year ahead."

Chris Vallender, the UAE team coach, believes that Al Musharrekh, on top form, will be able to make an impression.

"He has set his sights on making the cut and he undoubtedly has the talent and the game to do that," Vallender said. "Ahmed is very much a rhythm-type player; he has found some motivation and is playing some good golf. He also has belief in his ability, has a strong character and enjoys being around the top players.

"It would be great to have a strong local support getting behind him at the championship."