x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UAE golf pros ready for amateurs

The UAE professionals will be seeking to extend their dominance over the amateurs at the two-day Dubai Golf Trophy, a Ryder Cup-format event.

Ahmed al Musharrekh, left, and his brother Abdullah will be on competing teams at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club today.
Ahmed al Musharrekh, left, and his brother Abdullah will be on competing teams at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club today.

DUBAI // The two-day Dubai Golf Trophy, a Ryder Cup-format event between leading UAE-based pros and amateurs, begins this morning at the par-71 Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club with the professionals seeking to extend their dominance over the amateurs. The four-balls and foursomes take place at Dubai Creek, and the 16 singles matches take place tomorrow at Emirates Golf Club's Faldo Course. With eight victories in 10 previous Trophy stagings, the professionals are regarded as favourites to clinch the title. The first four-ball tee-off at 7.30am and negotiating the morning heat is likely to be just as tricky as tackling the 6,967-yard course. "We're trying to mix it up," Alan MacKenzie, the match referee and Dubai Creek's director of operations, said. "The morning and afternoon set-ups will be different in terms of pin positions and tee placements. We want to give the guys something to think about.

"I expect them to be aggressive in the morning four-balls, so the set-up needs to ask more questions of them in the afternoon foursomes. It needs to get them tempted in to making a call." Luke Cantelo, the pro team's non-playing captain, said his squad is keen to play. "We're ready and depending on how the four-balls go I'm only thinking about small tweaks for the foursomes," said Cantelo, the club pro at Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Beach Golf Course. "I've also been milling over the singles order and getting my thoughts together. "I'll make sure I'm around the place, on the first tee in the morning to see all the guys off, that sort of thing. "I'll keep an eye on all the matches and see how things pan out. We've had a non-playing captain the last couple of years and won, so I'm comfortable with it. "The last time we had a playing captain we got a spanking, so let's avoid history repeating itself." The trophy provides a rare opportunity for the UAE's top-ranking amateurs to pit their skills against the country's best professionals in a competitive format. Cantelo believes it offers a unique measure of the amateurs' potential. "Guys like Joel Neale and Khalid Yousef are still young and this is a good chance for them to see where they are against players who have contested many of the world's leading tours," Cantelo said.

"If they can compete against them then they can certainly contemplate turning professional in the future." John Mills is the amateurs' playing captain, and his biggest decision has been resisting the temptation to pair the al Musharrekh brothers, UAE national-team duo Ahmed and Abdullah, in match play. Ahmed, one of the squad's most accomplished players who plays off plus-four, will partner with Miki Mirza, while Abdullah will team up with Paul King. "Miki and I have played a lot of golf together this year," said Ahmed, who heads to Africa next week for the Egyptian Open. "We're familiar with each other's games and know our strengths and weaknesses. We'll be a good pair. I'm sure I'll be doing most of the work in the foursomes" where the team members will play alternate shots.

More seriously, he added that "Miki's putting is unbelievable and if I can get them close he'll sink them. We've got to do well and we'll go out aggressive in the morning four-balls," Ahmed said. "The singles on Sunday will be good, too. I'm more of a solo guy; I like the glory." The trophy's 16 singles matches have traditionally decided the outcome, but that has not stopped players from both sides bombarding MacKenzie with last-minute requests. "A few of the pros and amateurs have been calling me for practice rounds and there's been lots of banter flying around. I'm sure there'll be a lot more when play starts," MacKenzie said. emegson@thenational.ae