x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE squad confident 'we can perform' at Nomura Cup

Australia, South Korea and Japan are expected to fight for top honours at the Nomura Cup, but the UAE side figure they can land in the top 10 in Fiji.

Abdulla Al Musharrekh says the team has 'worked really hard' in preparing for the Nomura Cup.
Abdulla Al Musharrekh says the team has 'worked really hard' in preparing for the Nomura Cup.

The UAE's four-man golf team believe they can put in their country's best-ever performance at the Nomura Cup.

Khalid Yousuf and Saif Thabet, plus brothers Abdulla and Ahmed Al Musharrekh, are in Fiji to face the best amateur golfers from 27 countries from all over Asia and Australasia in a four-day tournament, which starts Tuesday.

Chris Vallender, the coach, said the quartet are good enough to finish in the top 10, which would be the country's best result in a top international golf event. The players echo their coach's confidence.

"I feel really good about how we can perform in the tournament, because we have had such good preparation and proper time to acclimatise," Yousuf said.

The team spent last week in Brisbane, Australia, where they got used to similar course conditions expected in Fiji, which are very different to what they normally encounter.

Thabet, a former member of the UAE equestrian national team, said the training camp has laid a superb foundation for success.

"I can't wait to get started in Fiji," he said. "The courses we played in Brisbane - from Brookewater to Oxley golf clubs - were two wonderful courses and gave us a perfect exposure to what we will face in Fiji.

"They were really different to what we play in the UAE, so I'm absolutely sure this will upgrade our game.

"The programme Chris [Vallender] and Khaled Mubarak [the non-playing captain] put in place for us over the past few weeks have definitely put us on the right track."

The Al Musharrekh brothers, who have represented their country on numerous occasions, have played with and against their teammates since they were schoolboys.

"The preparation we had in Australia definitely gave us a lot more confidence for Fiji, and we are feeling good about what we can achieve," Ahmed said.

Abdulla added: "We have worked really hard to get ourselves ready for the tournament and feel as if we can do well this year.

"The boys really practised well, and everyone is looking forward to what is going to be an amazing experience."

The Asia Pacific Golf Confederation Teams Championship - or Nomura Cup, as it is better known - is being staged at Denaru, Fiji, and played over the Natadola and Denaru courses.

The format is 72 holes of stroke play with the best three scores per team to count each day.

The Australians are favourites, having won the cup five times in a row before their run was ended in 2009 by South Korea.

Mubarak has been impressed with the hours all four players have put in on the course, driving range and putting green over the summer months.

This has been a problem leading up to previous tournaments, as the UAE sides were arguably under prepared and failed to finish inside the top 20.

"The players have worked very hard," Mubarak said.

"We had some intensive training in Australia and, once again, the effort from the players was very pleasing.

"The Nomura Cup is a great tournament where we will find some of the top players in the world, and hopefully our four guys will be up for the challenge."

While the Australians, Japanese and South Koreans should battle it out for the top three places, Vallender is confident about the UAE's chances of making a mark.

"The guys are very relaxed and seem more at ease with their games than they have been for a long time," he said. "We should have a good tournament."

No matter what happens in Fiji, Yousuf, Thabet and the Al Musharrekh brothers have a testing schedule ahead of them.

"Next month is the Arab Championship in Morocco, and what better than a tour like this to get our players ready in every possible way for that Championship," Mubarak said. "And then we have the MENA Tour, so this is a great time for the guys."

 

ncameron@thenational.ae

 

THE YOUNG AND THE RELENTLESS

Abdulla Al Musharrekh (Emirates Golf Federation)

Age: 23; Handicap: Scratch

Al Musharrekh's most recent victory came in April's Dubai Duty Free UAE Nationals Cup at the Emirates Golf Club. One of three talented golfing brothers - Hassan is the youngest - he helped the UAE senior team to finish runners-up to Bahrain in this March's GGC Golf Championship.

 

Ahmed Al Musharrekh (Emirates Golf Federation)

Age: 20; Handicap: Scratch

The younger of the Al Musharrekh brothers, Ahmed became the first UAE national to qualify for a European Challenge Tour event, the Egyptian Open in October 2010. He was a key member of the second placed team in Bahrain and won the individual gold medal at the tournament.

 

Khalid Yousuf (Emirates Golf Club)

Age: 21; Handicap: Scratch

The highly rated Yousuf was only 18 when he made the field for the 2008 Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club as UAE national champion. In doing so, he became the first Emirati to tee-off at the world class event. Was a member of the team in Doha and two years ago won the Pan Arab Junior Championship in Egypt.

 

Saif Thabet (Abu Dhabi City Club)

Age: 23; Handicap: Four

Thabet all but abandoned golf to become a member of the UAE's equestrian team. He only properly returned to the game six months ago, after a 12-year break. His handicap has already come down and he finished in runner-up spot to Abdulla in this year's Duty Free UAE National's Cup.