x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Victory allows Jebel Ali amateur to line up alongside Tiger Woods and Co

Stuart Fee won the right to play alongside some of the world's greatest golfers by winning the UAE PGA professional qualifying event at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Stuart Fee said windy conditions left him doubting whether his score of 75 would be enough to win at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club yesterday. It proved to be two shots better than his closest challengers.
Stuart Fee said windy conditions left him doubting whether his score of 75 would be enough to win at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club yesterday. It proved to be two shots better than his closest challengers.

Abu Dhabi // Stuart Fee did not just win a UAE PGA professional qualifying event at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club yesterday, he won the chance to play on the same course next month alongside some of the game's best golfers and at least one of its greatest ever.

Fee beat off the challenge of 29 others from the UAE PGA on a windy day to finish with a three over par 75, two strokes ahead of Phil Waine and Paul Hubner who were tied on 77.

And from January 26, he will line up alongside the likes of Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and the three-time Abu Dhabi winner and defending champion Martin Kaymer to play in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

This year's line-up, including the world's top four as well as Woods, is among the strongest in any event outside the majors.

"It feels great and is something I suppose we all dream about when we start playing the game," Fee said after being confirmed the winner.

"It's something, that once you're playing in it and have played it, no one can ever take away from you."

January promises to be a busy and momentous month for Fee; one week before the tournament his wife is due to give birth to their first child.

"We've actually got a baby due on January 22 so I'm hoping my wife delivers on time," he said. "It's going to be a busy time but I'm going to try and do some more practice than normal which won't be hard because we don't usually practice."

Fee, who counts Nick Faldo as an early hero, is a teaching professional at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa and has been playing golf since he was 15, though lately he has not had as much game play as he would like.

"I've been playing 18-19 years now, but I haven't played full-time golf for 12 years probably. Like a lot of the guys here who are busy, I probably play one game a month so two rounds in two days in January will be a luxury. I'm just going to enjoy getting out here and having a knock.

Strong winds meant an already challenging course became even more so and carding three over, thought Fee, might have been too many.

"It was windy but I was level par after nine, not playing great but I thought I was in the mix," he said. "I then dropped a few on the back nine and didn't play very well through that, but managed to get it round in three over. I personally thought it was a couple too many but then when you think about it, it was tough out there."

Preparations for the championships are all but complete and the course is looking so pristine that Fee reckoned the tournament could be held tomorrow if needed.

"The course looks as good as it has ever looked," Scott McCaw, the director of club operations at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, said.

"Year on year it's getting stronger, the rough is starting to thicken up. All the preparation has been done for January and it looked fantastic today. Probably windier than it has been so it made it quite tough.

"The course can play as long as 7,600 yards which it probably will during the championships so if the wind blows it could be a really stern test of golf."

It will be a test in which Fee doesn't want to look out of his depth.

"They're all phenomenal players and it will be a privilege to be able to play on the same golf course as them in the same event," he said.

"These guys are a different level and it's just a pleasure to be able to enjoy the same golf course as them.

"It'll take a bit of time to sink in but I'm looking forward to it and hopefully I won't make myself look too stupid."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae