Schmeichel's Celebrity All-Stars give pros a scare at Abu Dhabi Invitational

Joy Chakravarty 09:40 30/01/2017
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For the better part of the morning, it looked like Peter Schmeichel’s Celebrity All Stars would spring a massive surprise, but the Professionals fought back to score a comprehensive win in the Abu Dhabi Invitational.

In the end, the score read a lop-sided 14-5 in favour of Paul McGinley’s team, but a couple of hours into the tournament, the Celebrities All Stars were leading in 11 of the 19 matches.

Cricketers were the stars for the Celebrity team, with England fast bowler James Anderson beating the reigning DP World Tour champion Matthew Fitzpatrick 1-up, while the swashbuckling Brian Lara was a 2 & 1 winner over Steven Tiley.

And the recently-retired South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis was three-up after 12 holes against Paul Waring, before the Englishman rallied to halve his match.

The tournament format was Pairs Betterball Matchplay, with each Professional and Celebrity paired with a VIP guest.

The performance of the day was from captain McGinley and his brother, the Dubai-based Michael, who combined for an excellent score of 60. And yet, they were stretched to the 16th hole by rival skipper Schmeichel and his partner, Alberto Valenzuela.

“I am extremely tired, but what a fun day we had,” said Schmeichel after the round. “Paul and his brother played fabulous golf, but I am so happy that we put up a fight.

“See, in the end, it does not matter if we lost. I think that is the sentiment of most of my team members. We enjoyed it a lot, and most of us were not a disgrace. We competed well.

“But these guys do this for a living day in and day out. They are good. We were getting tired out there on the golf course. It is a long course, it is a difficult course and it was windy out there. Before long, we were losing our concentration, but not the Professionals. They were focused, and they made all the putts that they needed to.”

McGinley, who has a 100 per cent record as captain in team championships, was delighted to keep that record intact.

“It really is good to win, because out there, everyone is a world-class competitor,” said the man who led Europe to win in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

“To be honest, everyone will go home a winner today. Some of us have been friends, but we have become even better friends over these last couple of days. And some of us have made new friends. On top of it, we managed to raise significant amount of money for the local charities. What more do you want?” said McGinley.

“Of course, for me personally, it will be a day I will remember for a long time. To be able to play with Michael and to combine so well and shoot 60, that was special.”

Playing for the Professionals was UAE’s own Ahmed Al Musharrekh, who lost to rugby legend Mike Tindall.

But Ahmed said it was a great learning experience for him.

“To be honest, I am struggling with my game a bit. I am not yet as sharp as I want to be after the one-year absence because of military duty,” said the man who won the Abu Dhabi Invitational last year in the company of American star Bryson DeChambeau when it was played in a different format.

“I don’t know much about rugby but I read about Mike when I knew I was playing with him. And the one thing that struck me was how nice he was to everyone on the golf course and how popular he is. That taught me a few things and reinforced my belief that it is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”

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