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.”
Such a fun weekend - congrats to all especially our team !!! https://t.co/a3M66kuFKZ— Paul McGinley (@mcginleygolf) January 29, 2017
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.”
The UAE’s Year of Giving is set to get a significant boost with the announcement of the star-studded line-up for the upcoming Gary Player Invitational at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
More than 20 professional golfers, celebrities and sports stars are set to join Gary Player for the UAE’s second annual Gary Player Invitational on February 6 in Abu Dhabi.
Held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, under the Patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the 2017 Gary Player Invitational raises funds for the Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care & Special Needs, joining five other global events in a series that together has helped The Player Foundation raise more than $62 million for charities worldwide.
Among the male pros confirmed to join Gary Player this February are Darren Clarke, Chris Wood, Joost Luiten, Victor Dubuisson, Jason Scrivener, David Howell, as well as fellow South Africans Thomas Aiken and Trevor Immelman.
Representing the female pros are last year’s winner of the inaugural Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open Beth Allen; Georgia Hall, Caroline Martens, Emma Cabrera-Bello, and Victoria Lovelady.
Celebrities and sporting icons also set to join the golf professionals Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Springbok rugby legend Victor Matfield.
For more information on the Gary Player Invitational series, visit www.garyplayerinvitational.com and follow @GPInvitational on Twitter and Instagram- #GOLFandGIVING.
14-year old Dubai resident and Elite Junior Squad member at the European Tour Performance Institute, Zubair Firdaus, has landed a one-year residential scholarship at the Hills Academy in Queensland, Australia, following his victory at the AmBank International Junior Golf Championship in Malaysia.
Training daily on the award-winning golf courses at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the past 18-months, Firdaus’ golf talents saw him excel at the competition.
As well as topping the 13-14-year-old boys’ category, the young athlete achieved the best overall gross score in the under-18s category against 120 competitors, winning him the impressive scholarship worth over AED 120,000.
Commenting on Firdaus’ triumph, Director of Instruction at the European Tour Performance Institute and the champion’s golf coach, Mark Gregson-Walters commented: “At the European Tour Performance Institute, we are committed to developing and nurturing talent, particularly when it comes to the next generation of golfers. Zubair is a shining example of a local young athlete who is talented, hardworking and determined to improve his skills and compete at the highest level for his age group.
Mark continued: “With the support of our team at the world-class ETPI facility, Zubair has excelled. We are not only proud of his achievements to date but there is genuine excitement about watching him grow, and realizing his potential for future success.”
Recently voted as ‘Golf Academy of the Year’ at the 2016 Middle East Golf Awards, the European Tour Performance Institute is one of the finest golf instructional facilities offering an unrivalled teaching and practice experience, giving professional and amateur golfers alike, the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best players in the game.
The ETPI facility features state-of-the-art swing analysis studios, a full gym with the very best in fitness equipment and personal trainers, along with wellbeing services such as nutritional consultancy and sports massage.
Firdaus has taken home a total of four wins over the past two months including the Emirates Junior Open, the Abu Dhabi Golf Club Junior Open and the Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club Junior Open, which is an incredible feat for the teenager.