Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 February 2020

Sebastian Heisele heads home to Omega Dubai Desert Classic after sparkling display in Abu Dhabi

German receives an invite for the event at Emirates Golf Club, where he honed his skills as a junior living in the UAE

Sebastian Heisele tees off on the fifth hole on the final day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Sebastian Heisele tees off on the fifth hole on the final day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A European Tour pro who grew up in Dubai either side of the Gulf War will fulfill a childhood dream after being invited to play at this week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Sebastian Heisele has been rewarded for a sparkling performance in Abu Dhabi, when he made the cut in a Rolex Series event for the first time in his career, with the final sponsor’s invite for the Classic.

While making the cut meant plenty to him, more noteworthy to everyone else might be the fact his 10-under par total at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA was two strokes better than Brooks Koepka, the world No 1.

It stands to reason the 31-year-old German might know his way around the National Course. He played junior opens at the course when he was honing his game as an Emirates Golf Association colt.

Fair to say, though, he is even more au fait with the contours of the Majlis Course, where he will tee it up again on Thursday in the Classic.

Heisele’s father worked in the region for around 40 years – other than for a four-year hiatus when the first Gulf War happened, at which time the future pro golfer was still an infant.

Heisele himself first learned the rudiments of golf at Nad Al Sheba, a course that has since made way for Meydan – both the racetrack and a new golf course – before switching across town to Emirates Golf Club, the home of the Classic.

He left the city in 2005 to attend college in the United States, and is now based in Munich, but he says he retains a deep-rooted affinity with Dubai.

“That was a childhood goal of mine, to go and play in my home event,” Heisele said. “I watched it year-in, year-out. To finally get the chance to go and play would mean a lot. That is written in the stars.

“Hopefully Dubai will be kind to me this year, and give me the opportunity.”

They did so late on Sunday night, when the decision was made to offer him the final invitational place in the field.

The fact he knows the Majlis Course so intimately, plus he showed such fine form in Abu Dhabi, means he could even harbour high hopes at the Classic, despite his roundabout route to admission.

Heisele nearly reached the very summit of the leaderboard in the capital after a blistering third round, when he fired an 8-under-par 64.

He eventually had to settle for a tie for 21st after a lacklustre day with the driver meant he was only able to finish a fine weekend’s work with a 71.

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Best photos from final round at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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He says he will not enter Dubai with any specific expectations over his potential to contend.

“I would just want to enjoy it, really,” Heisele said. “Obviously, we want to win every event we tee it up in. That would be a special one: the course I have grown up on, and a course I have seen grow as well over the years.

“It would be a joy for me just to come back and compete. It would be very satisfying for me to come full circle, from coming in as a spectator, to working there, and caddying during some of the years, to finally playing it. It will be massive for me.”

While he is he getting set for an emotional return, he will at least have the experience of returning to a former haunt for a Tour event fresh in his mind.

“It was a good 15 years ago when I was last here,” Heisele said of playing in Abu Dhabi. “We would play 18 on this course, then 18 on the other side [the Garden Course], for a 36 junior open.

“I would come and play at the sand course at Al Ghazal by the airport – I don’t know if that is still there.

“I have been around for the event, and seen what it looks like.

“It was nothing new from that perspective, but obviously this is a slightly bigger tournament week.”

Updated: January 20, 2020 08:56 AM

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