x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Vallender eyes top-10 finish for UAE amateur golfers

Coach confident of doing well at this year's Nomura Cup when the four-man UAE team will be be decided this week at Yas Links.

The national coach believes whoever makes the UAE team is capable of finding a 'further 50 per cent' of their current form.
The national coach believes whoever makes the UAE team is capable of finding a 'further 50 per cent' of their current form.

DUBAI // Chris Vallender, the national coach of the Emirates Golf Federation, has challenged the UAE's amateur stars to live up to their potential in this year's Nomura Cup.

Qualification for the second biggest tournament in amateur golf, after the Eisenhower Cup, takes place at Yas Links from Thursday to Saturday where the make-up of a four-man team will be decided for the event to be held in Fiji in August.

Vallender believes it is now time for these talented players to prove themselves on foreign shores and feels that a top-10 finish is a realistic target.

A possible 23 teams will take part in the tournament that falls under the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation of which the UAE is a member.

Up until now, the all-Emirati team gets to this biannual tournament with justifiable high expectations, only to fall well short of their standards. Vallender said things have to change this year.

Vallender said: "We are not at the level of the New Zealand or Australian players just yet for example, but we should be capable of finishing in the top 10, even has high as eighth. But we have never done as well as we would have liked to in the Nomura Cup.

"We seem to finish fourth and fifth bottom every time and we are much, much better than that.

"I'm looking for a real step-up in terms of position. However, if the guys can just find a further 50 per cent of their current form, something they are more than capable of, I am confident we can do really well.

"I honestly believe they can make that big jump, from bottom four to top eight, but only if they play to their potential. It's not as if the guys just aren't good enough."

Three rounds of golf this week from an estimated field of 11 players will decide the team, which, in all likelihood, will include Khalid Yousuf, brothers Ahmed and Abdalla al Musharrekh plus one other.

All are good players on their familiar courses on which they practice all the time, but they need to adjust more quickly to conditions outside the UAE.

This is not unusual in golf. There are some American players who would not dream of leaving their own country to play abroad because of the different set-ups which can trip up even PGA tour players. But if the Emirati players are to improve, and this is their aim, then the coach says they need to take their A Game to Fiji.

"We have a lot of good players here who have found it difficult to replicate their best form away from the UAE. This is something we are going to work a lot on over the summer," Vallender said.

"My job and that of the coaching staff is to get to the bottom of the reasons why we have underperformed in the bigger tournaments and again I stress it's not because the guys aren't good enough. It would be a different story and a very different challenge if that were the case.

"We will see how these three days go and then turn our attentions on how to get them playing their normal golf on courses and in conditions they are not used to."

The 25th Nomura Cup will take place for the first time in Fiji. It is scheduled for August 16-19 at Denarau.

Over the past 24 championships Australia, Japan and Taiwan have between then won 22 titles. The other two were taken by India in 1973 and then New Zealand in 1995. The Australians are looking to make it seven wins in a row.