x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Teenager Daniel Hendry is shooting for the stars

A 17-year-old golfer from Dubai takes on top UK youngsters at Abu Dhabi junior event - and it will help shape his future.

Daniel Hendry will take on some of the UK’s best young players in Abu Dhabi tournament.
Daniel Hendry will take on some of the UK’s best young players in Abu Dhabi tournament.

Daniel Hendry will learn much in the next few days about whether his plan to become a professional golfer is a realistic ambition or an impossible dream.

Hendry, 17, will take on the cream of teenage talent from the United Kingdom in a tournament organised by the Daily Telegraph.

The Dubai schoolboy earned the right to pit his game against those young golfers by winning a qualifier for the Abu Dhabi Junior Championship with a three-over par score of 75 on the National Course, the venue for the European Tour event.

He repeated that feat in a specially arranged practice round and concluded that he is in good shape for what promises to be a daunting challenge.

"I would have liked a better score, and I know I'm going to need a better score to do well in the tournament," said the Scotland-born Hendry, who became a scratch golfer in February and has since progressed to plus-three handicap status as a member of Emirates Golf Club where he has been a member since he started playing the game.

"But I felt I hit the ball solidly round what is a tough course and the overall performance was more than satisfactory. Hitting top form today would have meant I had peaked too early. It's a question of building up gradually to an event as big as this."

The youngster is determined to make the grade in the professional ranks even as he is being distracted in a key part of his golfing year by forthcoming modules in two of the four A levels for which he is studying.

"The hope is to get a [golf] scholarship in the United States for 2012," he said. "It's a bit stressful putting it all together before all the places go but I have already got a couple of offers.

"Scratch or better will get me a place at one of the colleges. Obviously it will help to have a better handicap. But it is more about performances in the big tournaments and how your personality comes across.

That is why the three-day Abu Dhabi Junior Championship is so vital to Hendry, who has represented Scotland at schoolboy level and has a job offer back home in Stirling if his American adventure fails to blossom.

A triumph over Britain's best would get him noticed and possibly earn him an invitation into the professional event at the same course in January. He is also hoping to qualify for two other events on the Desert Swing - the Dubai Desert Classic and the Qatar Masters.

He was able to compare his level of ability with two other Daily Telegraph qualifiers - Oliver Carr and Toby Tree - during the summer and is looking forward to renewing the rivalry in the latest running of the junior competition which was launched as a boys' event in 1985 and became open to girls five years later.

"I have beaten them before so there is no reason why I can't go out there and perform well," said Hendry, who finished fourth in the Scottish Under 18s, tied for seventh in the Scottish Under 16s and made the cut in the English boys' championship during his summer holidays.

"A top-three finish is realistic for me. Any higher than that would be fantastic. But I know it's going to be tough because there are some excellent players coming here with eyes on this title.

"This is the biggest honour so far for me. It's the most important tournament I've played in individually and I'm really excited about it.

"I have always enjoyed The National course in Abu Dhabi. I probably enjoy it more than my own club at Emirates. I like the risk and reward set-up there."

Hendry is trying not to get overwhelmed by the possibility of eventually getting paid for pursuing his sporting passion.

He said: "I am not putting too much pressure on myself at this stage of my career. I reckon all of that is five or six years into the future."

His father, Andrew, who caddied for him when we went round The National course and has carried the bag for his son on most of the big occasions, nodded.

"His mother and I are nervous about this," he said. "You always want to give your children every opportunity to achieve their career ambitions but we are wary that it is a tough career to break into."

The long-standing Daily Telegraph tournament which is in its third year as the Abu Dhabi Championship will feature 12 boys, including Hendry, and nine girls in three rounds of strokeplay from today.