x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirati brothers in arms on the golf course

The three Al Musharrekh brothers - Abdullah, Ahmed and Hassan - are aiming to create an impact on the global game.

Ahmed al Musharrekh, left, and his two brothers Abdullah, centre, and Hassan may compete with each other but they train, practise and play golf together every day.
Ahmed al Musharrekh, left, and his two brothers Abdullah, centre, and Hassan may compete with each other but they train, practise and play golf together every day.

It is the only topic on which the inseparable al Musharrekh brothers disagree: Who is the best golfer? Abdullah, 22, Ahmed, 19, and Hassan, 17, are at the forefront of the UAE's drive to establish a meaningful, professional impact on the global game. Who sits atop the pecking order, however, is up for debate.

"Me," Hassan said with a laugh. The confident teenager made his case: "We all went on a golf camp in England earlier this year and we played every day, at many different courses. I beat Ahmed and Abdullah in the final rankings. It was a good feeling." Ahmed, the middle brother who possesses a mix of Hassan's youthful cockiness and Abdullah's more grounded outlook, interjected: "I actually drew with Hassan, he didn't beat me."

"The family rivalry is definitely strong," said Abdullah, who was dressed in national team shirt and cap. "Everyone will say I am the best." Battling for family's bragging rights is a popular past-time in the al Musharrekh household, but the ultra-competitive brothers eagerly recognise the roles the siblings have played in their respective developments. The ambitious Emirati musketeers train, eat, practise and play together. They are a likeable triumvirate who regularly finish each others' sentences. The kindred behaviour, Abdullah said, has greatly benefited Hassan, who has a handicap of two.

"He is the top UAE junior, definitely," said Abdullah, a scratch player. "His game has improved quickly because he spends so much time training with us and the national team. To play at our level he has to push himself and he's done it, he's almost at our level. It's helped him to play with us all the time and compared to his peers he is in another league in terms of mindset, striking ability, everything."

Ahmed, who is statistically the family's best with a handicap of two, agreed. "He has to push himself much harder when he plays with us," he said. "You need to play with players better than you to improve." To that end, Ahmed and Hassan have sought to develop their game with quality tuition outside the country. They learnt the game's basics under the watchful eyes of their father, Mohammed, at Dubai Creek Golf Club. The opportunity to enroll at the world-renowned IMG David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida - America's most-prestigious golf finishing school - illustrates the lengths the brothers will go to enhance their development.

"Ahmed gained a lot from going to Florida when he was 16," Mohammed said. "It was very good for his game and also personally for him to experience different people and cultures. It gave him a lot of confidence and independence. Now Hassan wants to go because he has seen how Ahmed's game improved. That's great and I am very proud. It is my duty to support them, be it in school or their hobbies." The days when Mohammed used to walk off the 18th green having got the better of his sons are long gone. "It's good that they beat me. It means I have spent wisely on their talent and I am sure my investment will be fruitful," said Mohammed, who is also a member of the national golf federation.

"I am very optimistic about Ahmed. He can be in the world's top 50. He has the talent and has everything it takes to be a successful professional. Ahmed only ever thinks about golf." Ahmed is the only brother to have played in a professional tournament; the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority gave him a sponsor's invitation to play in January's Abu Dhabi golf championship. But he wants more. "Playing in Abu Dhabi was amazing," he said. "I had just got back from qualifying school [where amateurs can earn invites to professional Tour events], I was fresh and my mind was in the right place.

"My game is usually aggressive and that's how I played on the first day. "I just kept going for everything and ended up shooting 77 [five over par]. On the second day I was aggressive when I needed to be and conservative when that was needed. I shot under par, but still missed the cut. "It was a valuable lesson, I learnt a lot about professionalism and playing strategically. I definitely want to repeat that experience again next year, but hopefully as a professional."

Turning pro is an objective the brothers share, but there are more immediate challenges on the horizon for the patriotic threesome, particularly Abdullah, a seasoned veteran in the national set-up. "I'd really like to win the team a gold medal in the Arab Championships [November in Tunisia] and the GCC Championships [March 2011 in Bahrain]," Abdullah said. "We're also playing the Eisenhower Trophy [the world's leading national amateur competition] this year and although we can't win it - not with all the top teams playing - we're working towards a top 30 finish out of the 70 teams.

"We have to ensure we are in form for the major events and we'll be working on a programme to peak for those events," he added, glancing at his nodding juniors. Fully aware of the roles they have been cast to play in building a competitive national team in the long-term, the confident al Musharrekhs are willing ambassadors of the game they love in a country they are proud to represent. "We are the pioneers of golf here and we need to set a certain example for the other kids that are going to come through the UAE ranks," Abdullah said.

"We need to set examples and encourage other nationals to take up the game of golf - much of that will depend on our success as the pioneers." Judging by the growing number of local youngsters swapping sandals for spikes on golf courses across the Emirates, a significant slice of the al Musharrekh brothers' success has already been achieved. Just how far they go in the future is up to them. "It will be great if we can all turn professional and can practise and compete together, but it's not easy to turn pro, we will all have to work hard," Hassan said.

Then, in the assured manner well-known to his two elders, the Musharrekh pup smiled and said: "There's no pressure, though, I have at least 10 more years."