x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mirza will not stop at milestone

Dubai Creek member is No 1 amateur and the 28-year-old wants another crack at the Desert Classic after order of merit success.

Miki Mirza, right, and the likes of Khalid Yousuf are proving there is talent in the UAE.
Miki Mirza, right, and the likes of Khalid Yousuf are proving there is talent in the UAE.

Miki Mirza was celebrating yesterday after being confirmed as the country's leading amateur golfer over the last year following the publication of the Emirates Golf Federation final order of merit table of the season. A delighted Mirza, 28, who plays with a handicap of plus one, led a clean sweep by his Dubai Creek club which provided the top five players in the points list.

A victory on his home course to win the 36-hole club championship by three strokes with rounds of 74 and 72 meant Mirza could afford to miss the concluding tournament in the 12-event fixture list the Montgomerie Open and still finish comfortably ahead of Vikram Judge, his experienced club colleague. Mirza's aggregate points haul of 178.25 gave him an emphatic winning margin over Judge's total of 149.50 and the al Musharrekh brothers Abdullah and Ahmed, who finished third and fourth, respectively, with 140.5 and 134 points.

The merit award follows swiftly after Mirza's career highlight of securing a place in this year's Dubai Desert Classic and competing against some of the world's leading professionals in the European Tour event. The Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez was the winner of that tournament. Mirza admitted to a failure to do himself justice in missing the cut at the Majlis course after two rounds of 81 in the company of Germany's Marcel Siem and François Delamontagne, the Frenchman, but enjoyed every moment of what he called "an amazing experience".

He reflected: "I am so keen to earn the chance to have another try and I feel sure that the appearance there in February will stand me in good stead if I'm lucky enough to qualify again. "But I know chances like that don't come easily. There is a lot of quality in the amateur game here which is why it is so pleasing to top the order of merit." Mirza, who describes himself as Canadian-Indian, grew up in the UAE and has been playing golf since he was 14.

He became a scratch player more than four years ago. "The handicap adjustments I've earned this season make me a solid plus one now," he said. "It's up to me to build on that if I want to continue to make progress in the game." Mirza is aware of the massive gulf between touring professionals and strong amateur players like himself and those who challenged him for the Order of Merit won in the previous two years by England's Joel Neale, who is currently at university in Australia.

"You've got to get down to something like plus four before you can even think about turning professional and that's a long way off," he said. "But you never know what hard work can bring." The high placings of the Musharrekh brothers, who both recorded tournament victories in the closing weeks of the campaign, and Khalid Yousuf who finished in sixth place on the merit list was an encouraging sign for Emirati golfers. Saeed Albudoor, the general manager of the EGF, was pleased with the results.

"I would like to congratulate Miki for his consistent performances during the season," he said. "We are also delighted to see UAE nationals make their mark during the campaign. "If you look at the performance of the Musharrekh brothers and Khalid, it shows they are up there with the best in the UAE and, on their day, can win any tournament on the domestic circuit." Yousuf has twice appeared in the Desert Classic. Ahmed Musharrekh, the younger of the talented siblings, claimed the amateur qualifying place in this year's Abu Dhabi Championship, which was won by Martin Kaymer of Germany. The trio of Emiratis have become stalwarts in the UAE national team.

Albudoor added: "The new look to this year's Order of Merit table also shows there is no dearth of talent in the country and that augurs well for the game. "We at the Emirates Golf Federation will keep working to create more playing opportunities for both national and expatriate golfers." wjohnson@thenational.ae

1. Miki Mirza 178.25 2. Vikram Judge 149.50 3. Abdulla Al Musharrekh 140.5 4. Ahmed Al Musharrekh 134 5. Paul King 125.25 6. Khalid Yousuf 111.8 7. Nick Brewaeys 101.25 8. Fredriksson Pontus 94.5 9. Michael Harradine 85 10. Dindo Varkey 84.95