x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Pro world has zero appeal

Khalid Yousuf has been blessed with an abundance of talent, loves to play golf and has been consistently rated at the top of the UAE national team.

Khalid Yousuf, shown practising with the UAE team at Abu Dhabi Golf Club last month, says he has no plans to turn professional.
Khalid Yousuf, shown practising with the UAE team at Abu Dhabi Golf Club last month, says he has no plans to turn professional.

Khalid Yousuf has been blessed with an abundance of talent, loves to play golf and has been consistently rated at the top of the UAE national team. But there's one thing he definitely doesn't want from the game: to make a living. Speaking at the Emirates Golf Club, Yousuf admitted professional golf simply doesn't excite him and said he is hoping to pursue a career in finance. "I don't think I want to be professional," said Yousuf. "You watch the guys on tour and it looks fun, but behind the scenes it is a real struggle, there's so much travelling and you have to work so hard just to make the cut.

"I don't feel that excited about being a pro, I just enjoy fun golf." Yousuf, 19, the first UAE golfer to qualify and tee off against elite players at the Dubai Desert Classic, has been playing with the national team since he was 14. He has been in a starring role for the young UAE side, putting in a strong performance at the Eisenhower Trophy in Australia last summer and helping the UAE to second place finishes in the GCC Championship in Bahrain and the Arab Golf Championship in Ras al Khaimah in April.

"Now golf means a lot to me, as I'm playing for the UAE and am probably one of the best players here," said Yousuf. "But I'd probably like to work in a bank or something like that. Golf is a great game to play if you are in that sort of career; deals are done on the golf course. "I'll keep it up and play for the UAE if I can, as an amateur, but I don't want to be a pro." Yousuf's philosophy is not uncommon among top local players.

"I don't want to play golf as a career," Faisal al Marzouqi said at a recent national team training session, "because if I didn't play good then maybe I'd want to quit, and then maybe I can't find a new job. I want to play for the national team, but I don't want to play as a career." At 14, Faisal is one of three under-15 golfers playing with the UAE team. His younger brother and UAE teammate, Sohail, feels the same way.

"I thought about being a pro golfer, but no, it is not what I want. I want it to be hobby," said Sohail. "I'd like to do mechanical engineering. I would like to play golf, and play for the UAE, but it is not my main ambition." The UAE team coach, Chris Valender, believes the country is on the right track to produce top home-grown golfers, but says a change in mentality is essential if young players are to stay in the game.

"How far are we from producing a local pro? Not too far, I think," said Valender. "The main ingredient to creating a pro is that person's desire to become one, and how strong they are mentally. "There are hundreds of thousands of golfers all over the world that hit it well enough to go out and play, it is whether you have the desire to put in the time it takes and whether you have the mental strength to get out there and accept defeat after defeat before you make it.

"I believe we have people with the ability to go pro, from the technical side of it; whether they have the desire and whether they really want to get out there and be pros is another story." Commenting on Yousuf's desire to keep golf as a hobby rather than a profession, Valender said, "There's nothing we can do to make Khalid a top pro, it has to come from him. In five years' time he might think that he's playing really good golf, he's done the studying, tried the career and he wants to give the pro circuit a go, and he does it then. We'll see.

"The people who make it to the top are very serious about golf, they are very passionate about it. Golf, although it has been in the UAE for a number of years, maybe doesn't have the traditions it has got in Europe, so they haven't been brought up with the passion for it. "I think Emiratis think it is something other countries are supposed to do well, not us. They'll be great in horse racing and football, because they have long traditions in it, but they need to start believing in themselves. There is talent here and they can reach the top.

"I would love to see an Emirati on the pro circuit. It would be brilliant to see golf in the UAE grow, and for an Emirati to be part of it." zgriffiths@thenational.ae