x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Yousuf waits on invitation

Khalid Yousuf, the Emirati golfer, could miss out on a second successive appearance at the Dubai Desert Classic.

DUBAI // Khalid Yousuf, the Emirati golfer, could miss out on a second successive appearance at the Dubai Desert Classic as the organisers bid to accommodate all of the tournament's previous winners. As part of the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Classic, Golf in Dubai have invited each 16 of the players who have won the trophy to participate in the Jan 27-Feb 1 event.

The need to shoe-horn the extra players into the 120-man field will mean special invitations are harder to come by for aspiring players like Yousuf. While still a schoolboy at Dubai College, Yousuf became the first Emirati to play in a European Tour event when he was granted a place in the Classic earlier this year. The student, who now attends the American University in Dubai, would be even better equipped to perform at the Classic this time round, as he proved with a strong display while representing the UAE at the recent Eisenhower Trophy.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the vice-chairman and chief executive of Golf in Dubai, admits attempting to square the anniversary celebrations with the need to promote the game among UAE nationals is proving tough. He said: "We want to invite Khalid but because we are asking all the past champions to attend, they might need an invitation to play. "Some of them might not have a playing card, so obviously there are some decisions for us."

Whatever the outcome, Buamaim believes the high-quality field for the Classic will continue to benefit the development of the game here. "The regular visits of the superstars to Dubai have had a knock-on effect on UAE junior golfers," he added. "It was a matter of pride for everyone in the UAE when Khalid Yousuf became the first UAE national to compete on the global stage. Like Khalid, there are many players, both nationals and expatriates, who have matured into fine players. The future looks bright for golf."

The presence of some of the former champions is highly doubtful. Tiger Woods, the world No1, who won at the Emirates Golf Club on his first visit in 2006 and again last year, is set to miss out due to a knee injury. Seve Ballesteros, the popular Spanish veteran, will also be absent as he was only discharged from hospital last week following brain surgery. Elsewhere on the roll of honour, the 1993 winner, Wayne Westner, has barely played on Tour in the past 10 years. The South African, 47, suffered serious ankle ligament damage on eve of Madeira Island Open in 1998 when a railway sleeper crumbled and he fell 10 feet. He has only played once on Tour since.

Others are certainties. Henrik Stenson, the in-form Swedish Ryder Cup player, and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, are both residents of Dubai, who will both be looking to repeat their past successes on home soil. Buamaim added: "The intention is to honour them for their contribution to promoting golf and the city." pradley@thenational.ae