Grassroots golfers eye glory at Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup

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Being an amateur golfer is a frustrating experience. Great rounds brought down by successive triple bogeys at 17 and 18, while terrible rounds are redeemed by a birdie on the last. What makes it worse is watching those pesky professionals, who make it all look so easy.

We watch enviously, dreaming of what life as a professional golfer might look like. Consistently under par, travelling the world – what an existence! And then it all comes crashing down like a quadruple bogey on 18… again.

For antagonised amateurs, though, the professional experience is not actually as distant a dream as it may seem.

Since 2013, the Turkish Airlines Amateur Golf World Cup has been giving grassroots golfers a taste of the big time with its global series. Around the world, there are 100 qualifying competitions across 61 countries which bring players together to compete for a shot at reaching the Grand Final.

This year’s showpiece is being played at the magnificent Titanic Golf Club in Antalya, between October 29 and November 1. It takes place immediately before the Turkish Arlines Open at the nearby Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, with those finishing in the Top 10 of the Grand Final given the opportunity to play in the Pro-Am ahead of the European Tour event.

The finalists will be put up in the 5* Titanic Deluxe Belek hotel and for the weekend, made to feel as though they are competing in a professional tournament.

It’s an incredible prize for golf enthusiasts and Sport360 sampled the atmosphere at one of the final qualifiers, played at the pristine Kemer Golf and Country Club near Istanbul.

Poor performance on the course meant that the dream of reaching the Grand Final was put to bed for another year, but Kemer was a fine example of the outstanding venues for the qualifiers.

Part of a 500-acre site in Belgrade Forest, at the foot of the Istranca Mountains, it is an undulating track that requires precision driving to tackle the tight fairways.

The 6,930 yard, par 73 offering was designed originally as a 9-hole course in 1995 by Duttchman Johan Dudok van Heel but was extended soon after and is now the headquarters of the Turkish PGA.

The beautiful Kemer Golf & Country Club.

The beautiful Kemer Golf & Country Club.

The tree-laden course is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of sprawling Istanbul and it is easy to see why members and visitors alike make the 40-minute drive from the capital to indulge in Kemer’s charms.

Players of all shapes and sizes, standards and backgrounds competed in this qualifier – with Istanbul native Hakan among those to laud the inception of the tournament.

“It’s fantastic to be able to play in a competition such as this,” he told Sport360. “The prize on offer is something really special and it is unusual that amateur golfers like me get to play with such high stakes.

“It’s a challenging course and a challenging environment. I don’t think I will qualify for the grand final this time but you can be sure that I will try again next year!”

Hakan is certainly part of a minority in Turkey enjoying the sport of golf. Kemer is one of just two courses in the greater Istanbul area, a staggering statistic given the population of the city is nearly 15 million people.

But while it may be a little while before a Turkish golfer makes their mark at a professional level, the Turkish Airlines Golf World Cup is doing its best to build a strong association with the sport – both at home and abroad.

For more details on the Turkish Airlines Golf World Cup, visit golf.turkishairlines.com

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