x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A UAE golf pro's dream: a round with Phil Mickelson

Richard Sheridan, a 33-year-old golf pro in the UAE, hopes to play a 'dream round' with Phil Mickelson in Abu Dhabi this week.

Richard Sheridan hopes for a practice round with Phil Mickelson before  Abu Dhabi event.
Richard Sheridan hopes for a practice round with Phil Mickelson before Abu Dhabi event.

Phil Mickelson will be one of the main attractions on his debut appearance in the Middle East at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship this week, and the American knows fans will be scrambling to get up close and personal.

And there is at least one golfer in the field who hopes to get a direct line to the Californian left-hander reaps dividends on the National Course.

Richard Sheridan, 33, recently won the UAE professionals' qualifier for the European Tour event for the second year in a row and is eager to give a better demonstration of his talents than he did on what he described as a nerve-wracking occasion 12 months ago.

The English expatriate's chances of fulfilling his ambition to make the halfway cut will improve considerably, he believes, if he can feed off the talents of Mickelson in a pre-tournament practice round. That notion of a journeyman club professional rubbing shoulders with a four-time major champion is not as far-fetched as it appears because of Sheridan's local connections at his Dubai base.

He is one of the resident teachers at the Butch Harmon Academy at the Els Club which is run by the golfing guru's son Claude.

"Butch is coming over to Abu Dhabi with Phil," Sheridan said. "It will be a dream come true if I can use my connections with Butch and Claude to get a practice round with Phil. That would be the best day of my life if that happened."

Sheridan earned his big chance to compete against a cluster of the world's leading players by going round the championship course in a two-under-par 70, which gave him a two-stroke advantage over Luke Cantelo, who was representing Saadiyat Beach, and Malcolm Young from Arabian Ranches.

That score was two better than the one he posted a year earlier which resulted in him winning a play-off with Simon Payne of Tower Links, and Sheridan is hoping to show similar improvement in the main event which starts on Thursday.

Rounds of 73 and 76 last year left him seven shots off the cut mark at five-over par, leaving him in a tie for 115th place out of an entry list of 126.

"Tee to green I was fine but I had too many putts - 32 and 34," he said. "You can afford only 28 putts a round in a competition of that quality and my unsatisfactory putting made the difference between going home and staying for the weekend."

He also pointed to stage fright as another decisive factor. "I had a 1pm start on the Friday which was quite a busy time," he said.

"There were lots of people milling around the first tee. I was called to the tee by Ivor Robson, who is a very famous starter. The nerves were severe but when I look back I really enjoyed it.

"You do hit the ball farther purely through the adrenaline taking over. I had never hit the ball as far as I did that day. I was trying to swing easy but it was far from easy."

Sheridan, who has won two UAE order of merit events this season and finished second in another, is convinced he will be better equipped to produce his best form in this weekend's tournament.

"Hopefully this time I will be less nervous," he said. "I think it is an attainable objective to make the cut. I have had some great rounds at Abu Dhabi and I know the course quite well."

Sheridan has not yet given up hope of making the grade as a touring professional but describes himself as "extremely happy" in his current role.

"I considered going to Asia to try to qualify for their tour," he said. "But right now I'm really focused on the Harmon school. Working for this name is a great thing to have on your CV. I am planning to stay here for a few more years. After that who knows? Maybe the Far East to Korea or Japan."

wjohnson@thenational.ae