x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Family affair must begin in schools

The three Musharrekh brothers are leading the way towards a new generation of UAE golfers, and hoping local youngsters will follow suit.

The three Musharrekh brothers are leading the way towards a new generation of UAE golfers, and hoping local youngsters will follow suit. Golf may not be a classic sport in the country, but with new golf courses springing up across the Emirates, enthusiasm for the sport is growing fast. Walking the greens for the senior and junior national team, the youngsters brim with passion for the sport - a trait the national coach, Chris Valender, believes makes the brothers stand out in their local field.

"My ambition is to turn pro, definitely. I think I'm on the right track right now, but we'll see what happens," gushes the 18-year-old Ahmed Al Musharrekh. As the middle brother of three with the lowest handicap - playing off scratch - Ahmed Al Musharrekh has the advantage of being inspired by older brother, 21-year-old Abdulla Al Musharrekh (+4) and challenged by Hassan Al Musharrekh (+9) who is three years younger to him.

With an individual and team second place finishes at the GCC Golf Championship in Kuwait and the Arab Golf Championship in Ras Al Khaimah this year, Ahmed Al Musharrekh and his UAE teammates have made a promising start in 2009. Valender believes the brothers have the drive and ambition needed to succeed in the sport. "Ahmed is probably the best of the three now, he has just finished two years at the David Leadbetter Academy in the States so he has been practicing a lot," says Valender.

"Abdulla is probably as good a striker of the ball as you'll see anywhere in the world among amateur golfers. He just needs to believe that he is that good and then he can go out there and shoot the scores that he has to shoot. "As for Hassan, he has a huge heart, he is all guts and determination. From the beginning he wanted to play with the senior guys." Ahmed recently graduated from the prestigious Leadbetter Academy in Florida, USA, having been granted a scholarship to attend the college by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation - a charity launched in 2006 to promote local talent.

While Hassan Al Musharrekh hopes to follow suit, Valender feels the UAE urgently needs to create their own golfing academies if they are to produce talented players for the future. "It's one thing we desperately need out here. We need our own golf academy so we can coach the youngsters full-time, get them studying and practicing their golf everyday," said Valender. But, with only three under 15 players in the squad, encouraging more youngsters into the sport is essential, with a junior development programme top of the agenda.

"It has always been the same team," says Ahmed. "We kind of grew up together, played together, and practiced together. We are very close friends, like brothers. It is a positive and negative thing. We know each other, but we don't have many players. It would help to have young players coming through. It would force you to get better and try to show them that you're better than them." Valender is hoping sponsorship will be granted to allow the Emirate Golf Federation to create a schools development programme across the UAE. "We want to go into Emirati schools and concentrate on the Emirati children. Teach the teachers how to teach golf - using fussy balls and plastic golf kits - and make it part of the curriculum, but letting them have fun.

"If I'm sitting here this time next year and I have 5 juniors at the age of 12 who can round a golf course in 90 shots, 85 shots, that will be fantastic progression. I'll be happy with that. You have to realistic about it." sports@thenational.ae