One of the first congratulatory messages I received after winning the BMW International Open in Munich last year was from Mike Gerbich. Which was just so typical of the person he was – always the first to be on your side, irrespective of whether your times were good, or bad.
We exchanged messages and I knew he was battling hard with cancer. That was two weeks before the Open Championship. And then, on Monday of the Open, I got a call from his son Kashe and my friend Chris Turlik that Mike wasn’t doing too well. Kashe tried to organize a call, but he was too weak to speak.
A day later on Tuesday, my wife Emma joined me in Royal Troon. That evening both of us shed a few tears in our room. We knew what was going to happen. And on Wednesday morning, we got the message we never wanted to receive. Mike was gone. Gone too soon, I would say.
It felt like a blow. In the evening, I posted a picture of ours playing a pro-am in Dubai on my Facebook page. Going through the comments later, one short message made me pause. I think it read: “Go and win the Open for Mike”.
That’s really when it struck me. I spent some time thinking about it. I told myself that I was going to try my hardest. That kind of became the purpose of my week. To then have the outcome that we finally had, was very, very special.
When I said I felt his presence throughout the week, I really meant it. I definitely had a few short talks with him out on the golf course. If I hit a bad shot, I would have been upset with myself. But I did not let that happen that week, because I was playing for him. I did not want anything to interfere with the mission.
So, on Wednesday, when we play the Omega Dubai Desert Classic pro-am in his memory, it is going to be another emotional day for me. This golf course and this city was where I first met the man, who really was one the kindest and gentlest souls you can come across.
Mike was a fantastic friend and supporter of golf in general. He was so passionate about the game. I think he was good friends with everybody on the European Tour. He would be there at Emirates Golf Club throughout the week of the Desert Classic, making sure each and every professional and staff was comfortable.
The one thing everyone remembers about Mike was how eager he was to help. When Emma and I moved in here, he was the one to point us in the right direction whenever we needed something done. He helped us with the plumber, and he helped us with government offices. I think he took great pleasure in being a guardian.
Mike and his wife, Francie, who is an equally magnanimous person, attended our wedding here in 2006, and a few days before that, Mike, along with Chris, was the one who organized my bachelor’s party.
When the family moved to Arizona, we would meet every year during the WGC-Match Play. I also invited them a couple of times to the Masters. He became really good at social media – which doesn’t come easy to people his age – and even though we would not get together for months, it still felt we have been in touch on a regular basis.
I wish I had played more golf with him. Whenever we did, they were some of the most enjoyable rounds. He’d have a cigar on one side of his mouth, and his golf was hit it, find it, and hit it again. Like every golfer in the world, he wanted to get better, but what was evident was the fun he derived from the game.
The man really had a phenomenal appetite for life. He had the rare ability of putting a smile on any face. Even now, when I think of him, it is with a smile and not with tears in my eyes.
Those who have met him, will know about his trademark ‘badabing badabong’. I don’t know where he got that from, but that’s how he’d always end a funny comment. ‘Badabing Badabong’…gosh, I really want to hear that once again.
So, rest in peace my friend. You’ve done more than your fair share in making everyone down here happy. Now do the same up there.
(As told by Joy Chakravarty)
Mike Gerbich was a long-time resident of Dubai and past Captain of Emirates Golf Club. He died of cancer on July 13 last year, a day before the start of the Open. Today’s pro-am at Omega Dubai Desert Classic is being played in his memory.
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic is all set to give spectators’ experience a major uplift this week with the new ‘DallahDrome’, a grandstand overlooking the first tee at Emirates Golf Club.
The DallahDrome is attached to the clubhouse and overlooks the first tee, with a new giant LED screen erected in the area between the first tee and the driving range.
It will seat 600 fans, who will also be able to access part of the clubhouse, which was not allowed for general ticket holders in the past.
The Dallah Sports Bar, created just behind the main seating area, will offer plenty of food and beverage options, and as many as 14 TV screens. The food menu for DallahDrome has been specially designed and priced for added value and variety.
The LED screen will also show live coverage of the tournament on Saturday and Sunday, once the leadergroup tees off from the first tee.
In the evening, for those fans who want to enjoy some world-class rugby, Six Nations Rugby live action will also be available.
David Spencer, strategic advisor to organisers ‘golf in DUBAi’ explained the idea behind the new creation.
“Mohamed (Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman of golf in DUBAi) and his team are always looking at ways to enhance the experience for the fans. That is something which is very high in our priority,” said Spencer.
“We always felt the first tee experience was slightly lacking because the stand was side-on to the tee. So, the fans could not see the shot shape and the elevation that the pros get. And we wanted to create a bit of excitement.
“So, we have the DallahDrome. Dallah is named after the Arabian Coffee Pot, which is also our tournament trophy. And drome because it is elevated above the first tee. The way we see it, it will be a VIP experience for the fans without having the VIP credentials.
“I really think this will be one of the major spectator viewing experience in the Middle East.”
Entry to the DallahDrome is free for those holding valid tickets for the course.
From the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to the Dubai Tour, this is one of the busiest weeks in the Dubai sporting calendar.
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Continues from Sunday, January 29 to Friday, February 3
World-class polo action continues in Dubai this week with the eighth edition of the McLaren Cup.
As part of the Dubai Polo Gold Cup series, the tournament runs until February 3 at Al Habtoor Polo Resort.
The Gold Cup Series is only behind Argentina, the US and UK in size and is played under the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) banner.
WHERE: Al Habtoor Polo Resort & Club, Dubai
MORE INFO: dubaipologoldcup.com
OMEGA DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC 2017
Thursday, February 2 to Sunday, February 5
The Omega Dubai Desert Classic first came to the UAE in 1989. Since then, the honours board has included seven different major champions including Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Now organised by Golf in Dubai, the tournament – nicknamed the “Major of the Middle East” – has welcomed more than 20 winners from 12 nations.
Last year, the 27th edition was won by England’s Danny Willett, who went on to win his first Masters title two months later. The 2016 Dubai Desert Classic field included 89 European Tour winners, eight major champions, 20 Ryder Cup stars and two of the globe’s top six golfers. Not too shabby, eh?
With McIlroy out injured this year, most eyes will be on how Woods will fare in Dubai.
PRACTICE ROUNDS: Monday, January 30 and Tuesday, January 31
WHERE: Emirates Golf Club
MORE INFO: dubaidesertclassic.com
DUBAI TOUR 2017 – STAGE 1 TO 4
Tuesday, January 31 to Saturday, February 4 (final stage)
The Dubai Tour returns as the cream of professional cycling take part in the four-stage event.
The event has come a long way since its debut back in 2014, with more UCI World Tour teams participating with each passing year.
The first and second edition saw American Taylor Phinney and Briton Mark Cavendish come out on top respectively while Quick-Step Floors’ Marcel Kittel was triumphant after winning two stages in 2016’s iteration.
Presently entering its fourth edition, the Dubai Tour has collectively entertained more than 120 riders and is set to once again receive cycling’s best teams as they vie for victory in the emirate.
WHERE: DUBAI INTERNATIONAL MARINE CLUB
MORE INFO: dubaitour.com
BESPORT INDIVIDUAL TIME TRIAL WINTER SERIES – RACE 3
Friday, February 3
Test your cycling prowess with the BeSport individual time trial series.
Besport’s annual individual time trials series is back at Al Wathba track this winter. The seasonal four-race event has riders released at one-minute intervals, as they tackle the track’s 30km loop.
Youth participation is greatly encouraged with alternative 8km and 16km races running alongside the main cycling event.
The winner of the 30k time trial will win 1,500 AED, while second place takes home 1,000 AED and third 500 AED. Also, the top three will also receive medals and BeSport store vouchers.
WHERE: Al Wathba Cycling Track
MORE INFO: besport.ae/besport-itt/c66i
GEMS TRIATHLON CHALLENGE 2017
Friday, February 3
Dust off your swimming goggles, grease your bike chains, inflate the tires and lace up your running shoes for the GEMS Triathlon Challenge.
It all began in 2014 when GEMS Education invited students, parents and teaching staff from universities and school across the UAE to participate in the inaugural triathlon.
The event proved a great success and the triathlon proudly announces its third edition in February.
The family-inclusive event involves diverse race categories for all ages, meaning everyone willing to swim, bike and run the appropriate distances are more than welcome to confirm their presence at the GEMS Wellingtom Academy.
Medals will be awarded to the best athletes.
WHERE: Gems Wellington Academy
EMAIL: [email protected]
GIANT DUATHLON SERIES 2016-2017 – FINAL RACE
Friday, February 3
The Giant Duathlon Series is aimed at triathletes, duathletes, cyclists, runners and fitness enthusiasts, of all ages and abilities.
Whether you are a beginner or a finely tuned athlete, the Giant Duathlon Series offers a test of endurance.
Each race is run/bike/run and will be open to individuals and teams of 2. Age groups are calculated as of your AGE on race day. If you move age groups half way through the series, your series points will be counted for the age group you were in for your first race of the series.
Kids are welcome too as the courses are ‘traffic friendly’, providing the greatest degree of safety for all competitors. Roads are exclusively booked to shield participants from potential perils.
Each of the five stages present specific routes and distances to spice up competition while showing off Dubai’s multiple iconic locations.
Contestants earn circuit points leading up to the fifth and final race, in which double points are awarded; Duathletes accumulating the highest tally earn silverware to place atop their mantelpiece as well as token prizes.
WHERE: Hamdan Sports Complex
MORE INFO: race-me-events.com
SALOMON WADI BIH RUN 2017
Friday, February 3
The Wadi Bih Run is organised by a team of dedicated volunteers who all share a love of the great outdoors and specifically the Wadis and mountains of the Northern Emirates.
The organising committee is a non-profit group whose objective is to encourage people to venture outside of urban sprawl of the UAE and their comfort limits to physically and mentally challenge themselves against the mountains in a truly spectacular environment.
New solo routes are announced for the 25th edition of the Salomon Wadi Bih Run, which takes place from 3–4 February 2017 from the Golden Tulip Hotel in Dibba, Oman.
The original 72km team relay race takes place on Saturday, February 4, 2017. All three solo events – 30km, 50km, 72km and the 50km family relay race – take place on Friday, February 3.
WHERE: Golden Tulip Hotel, Dibba
MORE INFO: https://wadibih.com/
DUBAI DESERT ROAD RUN 3KM AND 19KM – RUN 3
Saturday, February 4
Sign up now for the Dubai Desert Road Run, one of the UAE’s most popular running events.
Held several times a year, the Desert Road Run appeals to athletes of all levels, from first timers to seasoned runners.
Essentially a community run encouraging participation, the course has a private traffic-free road that extends to a 10km distance for experienced runners, and 3km for newcomers.
WHERE: The Sevens Stadium, Dubai
MORE INFO: http://www.dubairunning.com/