x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Virtual to reality for schoolboy golfer Dhruv

After mastering St Andrews on PlayStation, the Dubai schoolboy will play on the actual course alongside professional golfers, Graeme McDowell and Ross Fisher.

It all started when Dhruv Nair, seen here at the Dubai Creek Golf Course in Deira, got a chance to showcase his talent at Yas Links.
It all started when Dhruv Nair, seen here at the Dubai Creek Golf Course in Deira, got a chance to showcase his talent at Yas Links.

DUBAI // Schoolboy golfer Dhruv Nair will escape the heat of the summer months by hiding away in his bedroom to practise playing St Andrews on his PlayStation.

But the 12 year old will not be turning to computer games merely to avoid the searing temperatures outside, or through boredom.

This will be important practice for when he gets to perform on the famous Scottish links for real.

On September 28, Dhruv will tee off at the historic home of golf in a pro-am ahead of that week's Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour's biggest events, and his playing partners that day will be Graeme McDowell, the reigning US Open champion, and Ross Fisher, the Northern Irishman's Ryder Cup teammate.

Not bad for a youngster still several months away from being a teenager and who is just about taller than your average driver.

An excited Dhruv, who is in Grade 8 at Millennium School, Dubai, said: "I have only read about St Andrews and I play it all the time on PlayStation as well, so I sort of know the course. I can't believe this is happening to me for real.

"I know they started playing golf there hundreds of years ago. I got that from my video game. I play the pro-am before the Dunhill Links with McDowell, who warned me that I wasn't allowed to beat him, and Fisher.

"It's going to be great for my golf because the course and conditions are really different to what I play on in the UAE. I have a handicap of 15 at the moment and would love to turn professional at 15, maybe 16."

So how did this all come about?

Dhruv got the chance to play a pro-am at Yas Link in January when the Emirates Airline Invitational came to town. The youngster and his playing partner, Pablo Larrazabal, the Spanish tour player, finished in second place with a better ball score of 11-under par.

Dhruv, playing off the boys' tees, got around in just 78. This got him an invite to the post-competition charity auction where one lot was a game of golf anywhere in the world with McDowell and Fisher.

Abdullah al Naboodah, the event host, bid US$40,000 (Dh147,000) and immediately presented the gift to the then-Al Ahli football club manager David O'Leary who, in turn, handed it to Dhruv for his performance in the tournament.

Dhruv said: "I didn't know that I would be getting this prize. I wanted to go to Augusta [the site of The Masters], but juniors aren't allowed there. St Andrews isn't a bad second choice.

"The day at Yas Links was amazing. There were four qualifying events and the winner at the end got to play The Invitational, which was me. Pablo was pretty cool to play with, a really fun guy. He made it a really special day for me. The 78 was the best round I ever had.

"My short game is good. I don't hit it as far as some of my friends; I'm the smallest in my class, so I concentrate more on the short game, but I can get the ball 200 yards off the tee."

Dhruv's father Rajesh, who works in the science industry, was utterly astounded by the generosity of the prize.

He said: "We couldn't believe what was happening to us. It was such a marvellous gesture. I am taking the whole family to Scotland. I hope I get to caddy for Dhruv. To do that on the course where it all began would be something special.

"Dhruv works really hard and he enjoys his golf, which is the most important thing.

"When he played Yas, he had three birdies and an eagle, which helped pick up some extra points. His team were only beaten by one shot on the last by Ross McGowan and Michael Vaughan, the former England cricket captain."

Dhruv has been a member of Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club for more than five years along with younger brother, Rishi, who is 10, another one with potential.

Stephen Hubner, Heghad Academy Professional at Dubai Creek, said: "I have had the pleasure of teaching both Dhruv and Rishi since they first joined us over five years ago. They initially started with our junior development programme, which introduced golf to children as young as four.

"Dhruv has progressed extremely well. He has a genuine passion for the game and given his hard work and dedication, there is no reason why he cannot fulfil his dreams of becoming a tour player. I always emphasise the important of a short game and Dhruv has really taken this on board. As he gets older, he will develop his power."

His trip may still be a few months away but Dhruv is counting the days and is so glad that he overcame some tricky conditions on the biggest day, so far, of his golfing career.

"It got a bit windy on the last few holes at Yas, which I found tricky to deal with," said Dhruv, who expects the conditions to be even more testing in Scotland.

The next season for the Junior Development Programme at Dubai Creek will start from October and registrations open from September. To find out more contact The Golf Academy at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on 04 295 6000.

 

ncameron@thenational.ae