x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Yesterday's star has hand in tomorrow

Now head of the Emirates Golf Federation's National Junior Programme, Ismail Sharif continues to influence the next generation of golf.

Abdulla al Musharrekh says he is trying to follow the example Ismail Sharif set before him.
Abdulla al Musharrekh says he is trying to follow the example Ismail Sharif set before him.

ABU DHABI // Ismail Sharif was a role model for today's UAE amateur golf stars and not only because he is a seven-time national champion and a trailblazer for the game in this country.

Players such as Abdulla al Musharrekh will never forget the kind words Sharif had for him and his contemporaries who perhaps did not expect the country's most famous golfer to give up any of his time for a bunch of youngsters.

He was clearly a hero to any young Emirati coming through the ranks and continues to be an inspiration as in March it was revealed he would lead the Emirates Golf Federation's (EGF) National Junior Programme.

He is one of the reasons golf has a future in the UAE and his influence still has an effect on those who never even saw him play.

Sharif's goodwill was a lesson that a young al Musharrekh took to his heart, and that is why he is passing on any wisdom he can to the next generation of Emirati golfers, of which there are many.

His fellow players joke that al Musharrekh is the youngsters' hero and that is something that sits well with him.

"I like to look after the kids and show them around," he said. "We, and I mean the guys I started out with, were fortunate enough to have a few older guys who we looked up to such as Ismail Sharif, who was a brilliant champion and a massive help for the likes of me.

"He was good enough to give us all tips when we started to come through and I'm happy to do that as well.

"Golf among Emiratis is getting better all the time. Just look at the amount of golf courses that have been built in the UAE as well. Golf is booming in the UAE and to have so many young Emiratis taking up the sport is really encouraging."

The next crop of players cannot come through quick enough for Khalid Yousuf.

Yousuf is almost certain to be part of the UAE team who will take part in August's Nomura Cup but he would like to be pushed a bit harder for his place.

"The guys who normally make the teams need more competition for places," he said. "It would be a lot better for us if more people could knock us out of the team in the qualifiers."

And it may well be that he gets his wish and that place gets taken from him.

"I think here are about 150 Emirati golfers now, although most are casual golfers and don't compete like us," Yousuf said. "But since the EGF started the National Junior Programme, I think there are 150 junior players in Abu Dhabi and 150 in Dubai, and I'm told there are 50 in Sharjah as well.

"We played with some of them the other day and you could tell that there were a few who were really keen on their golf. I'm sure we will see them come through quickly enough."