x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Scottish link 'will help improve' UAE golfers

The two nations will compete in the first Test match for the Falcon Trophy, annual event will see UAE team visit Scotland next year.

Khalid Yousuf will represent the UAE in the Test against Scotland at Yas Links.
Khalid Yousuf will represent the UAE in the Test against Scotland at Yas Links.

ABU DHABI // The country's best amateur golfers will face their Scottish counterparts next month in the first ever "Test Match" between the nations at Yas Links.

Two six-man teams will compete in a 36-hole match-play format on the Abu Dhabi course on Saturday December 3 for the inaugural Falcon Trophy.

The plan is for the tournament to become an annual event with the UAE players, including the country's top-rated golfers Ahmed Al Musharrekh and Khalid Yousuf, making an exchange trip to Scotland next year. The Kingsbarns course close to St Andrews is a possible destination.

The Scottish Golf Union (SGU) is currently using Yas Links as a base for a month-long warm weather training camp for their national amateur team and part of this deal is to forge closer links with the national team, including this mini-Ryder Cup.

"The match will be great for both sets of boys," Ian Rae, the national coach of the Scotland elite squad, said.

"Yas Links is just fantastic. It's as good a golf course as you are going find anywhere in the world, so this is a great opportunity for my guys to experience these kinds of conditions.

"The courses here in the UAE are of the highest quality and are all obviously new. In Scotland, we have really old courses that are very quirky, so we are starved of their [the UAE players'] type of golf, and they are starved of what we get all the time.

"So it would be really beneficial for the UAE boys if they come over to us next year."

The Falcon Trophy is part of "The Home of Golf in the UAE" programme, which is a long-term initiative between the two countries to develop talent within the Emirates.

This is the second year the Scottish national team, which arrived on Friday, have used the country as a winter training base, with the support of the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF).

Scotland are represented by 10 players, three coaches and two sports physiologists, and the UAE players are set to be given access to this set-up over the coming weeks.

"The Test Match is a fantastic opportunity for the national team to compete against some of the best amateurs in the world," Chris Vallender, the coach of the UAE team, said. "It will be a great challenge and I'm sure it's one they will relish."

Vallender has this year been to Morocco, Fiji and Singapore with the national team players in an attempt to improve their golf by playing on different course set-ups. The chance to play at a Scottish links course is something he has been pushing for.

The Scotland squad are here until December 15. They took part in Saturday's Sheikh Rashid Trophy in Dubai's Jebel Ali Golf Resort, with their own order of merit leader, Greig Marchbank, finishing third.

Adel Zarouni, the secretary general of the EGF, said he believes the partnership between one of the oldest golfing countries and one of the newer ones is something special. The British Open was first played at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland in 1860 and Scotsmen won the trophy every year up until 1890.

"We may not have the history of Scottish golf, but we are delighted to celebrate the progress we've made in a short period," he said.

"I'm delighted about the partnership we are building with the SGU and their commitment to support golf in this country.

ncameron@thenational.ae