The UAE national golf team will kick off their campaign at the 37th Arab Golf Championship on Wednesday at the newly-opened Ayla Golf Club in Aqaba, Jordan.
Over 52 players from the the Arab Golf Federation will compete in the four-day event with Khalid Yousuf, Ahmed Skaik, and Abdulwahed Al Qasem representing the UAE.
The Ayla Golf Club is an 18-hole par 72 championship golf course designed by the legendary Greg Norman.
During the first week of October, the Ayla Golf Club hosted their first professional event which was the MENA Tour’s “Jordan’s Ayla Golf Championship”.
Both Yousuf and Skaik played in the MENA Tour event which provided some much-needed course experience for this Arab Golf Championship.
The UAE team are targeting the top spot in Jordan having had a solid three-month preparation period that included a strong practice schedule and appearances at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Golf Championship in New Zealand and the 2017 Nomura Cup in Malaysia.
Yousuf and Skaik will be looking to battle at the top of the leaderboard in the Individual Category, while Al Qasem playing in his first Arab Golf Championship will be looking to provide a strong third score for the Team Category.
The UAE Team will be accompanied by Sheikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qasimi (Emirates Golf Federation Chairman and Arab Golf Federation Chairman), Adel Zarouni (Emirates Golf Federation Vice Chairman and Arab Golf Federation Vice Chairman), and Khalid Mubarak Al Shamsi (Emirates Golf Federation Secretary General).
The Championship is run over four rounds (November 29 – December 2), the best three scores in a team of four are counted toward each round. Individual scores of players from each country are also recognized for individual gold, silver, and bronze medals.
The UAE Junior and Ladies National Golf Teams will travel to Tunisia to compete in the 2017 Junior and Ladies Arab Golf Championship this month.
This three-day event will have three different representing divisions – 18 and under, 15 and under, and ladies which will take place at the El Kantaoui Golf Club.
This event will be the 18th edition of the Junior Arab Golf Championship and the ninth edition of the Ladies Arab Golf Championship that falls under the Arab Golf Federation. With over eight countries and three divisions, the championship will host more than 60 players.
The El Knataoui Golf Club has two courses that are set along the Gulf of Hammamet. With expected rain and cool weather, the teams will be tested by the elements but should create a fun and challenging weekend.
For the boys divisions, representing the UAE and playing on the 18 and under team will be Mohamed Al Hajeri and Mohamed Saeed Abdulla.
Al Hajeri finished playing in the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand three weeks ago and will be looking to use that experience as a boost of confidence heading into the weekend.
Coming off a gold medal victory at the GCC Golf Championship back in April, the 15 and under team represented by Obaid Al Heloo, Rashid Al Emadi, and Khaled Al Mutawa will be heading into the championship with high expectations. All three boys have continued to work hard over the summer while aiming to win again on this bigger stage.
As always the ladies division will be full of talented teams. For the UAE team, Reema Al Heloo will be leading the way and with the support of Hamda Al Suwaidi and long-time veteran Dr. Rabab Al Haj. The ladies team will anticipate a strong showing.
The three-day event will have team and individual winners in each division. For the team category, the final score will consist of the top two gross scores, out of three players each round, totaled after three rounds. The individual category will be scored as the best individual gross score from each division.
Defending champion Beth Allen and 2019 Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew are among the leading names in the field at the second edition of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open, which begins in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
American Allen claimed victory in the inaugural event a year ago on her way to winning the 2016 Ladies European Tour Order of Merit.
The 35-year-old stormed to victory at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, firing a course record-equalling eight-under 64 to clinch the newest edition to the LET calendar by three strokes from England’s Georgia Hall.
Her superb 2016 led to a decision to cross over to the LPGA more in 2017, but it hasn’t exactly gone to plan.
She finished in a tie for 19th at the Indy Women in Tech Championship in Indianapolis at the end of September – her second best result of the season and highest finish since sharing seventh at February’s ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
She is currently ranked 110th on the LPGA money list, 92nd on the LET Order of Merit and 124th in the world rankings. Allen, however, has no regrets about making the step up to the LPGA after a 10-year absence from the tour.
“I think for this year it was the right move as I played so well last year,” said the California native. “As a professional athlete you’re always looking to challenge yourself and the LPGA is the strongest tour in the world so I wanted to see how I fared there.
“I played out there 10 years ago and then settled in Europe so I thought I’d see because I wanted to play in the Solheim Cup.”
Allen, who also won the LET Player of the Year award in 2016, did not make Juli Inkster’s US team as they beat Annika Sorenstam’s Europe 16.5-11.5 in Iowa, but insists her game is in good shape heading to Abu Dhabi.
“I had a good start to the year but then lost some confidence in the middle of the year and it’s difficult to play golf when you’re not feeling really confident,” added Allen, who left the LPGA in 2008 to join the LET and lives in Edinburgh.
“Luckily towards the end of the season I played better and had a top 10 in France a few weeks ago. I’m feeling like my game is there, I just need to be the confident player I was last year.
“This year hasn’t been as good as last year but it’s been a transitional year as I went over to the LPGA and I found it a little bit more difficult than expected, but I’m still really confident here.
“My golf isn’t that different and I really like the venue. I’ve found a bit of form recently too so I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully I can put up a really good defence.
“It feels great to be back. I always enjoy coming back to Abu Dhabi. We feel really welcome here and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club is a great venue. Obviously I have really good memories of last year and I’d like to keep my trophy, so I’ll do my best.”
Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu DhabI Sports Council, is proud of the field assembled for the second staging of the tournament.
“We’d like to welcome back our champion, Beth. She did a fantastic job last year and we hope there is good competition from others as we know she is intending to keep her trophy,” he said at the pre-tournament press conference on Monday.
“We have Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew too and we have assembled another fantastic field, so we cannot wait to see them showcasing their skills on the course.
“This tournament continues to cement Abu Dhabi’s reputation for hosting award-winning, world class golf events. We have the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the Abu Dhabi Invitational and the Gary Player Invitational.
“This provides us with another, and gives us the opportunity to promote women’s sports in the UAE and showcase Saadiyat Island.”