Saudi’s leading young golfer has revealed that the Kingdom’s increasing love of the game has been pivotal in his preparation for what he hopes will be a successful return to this month’s Saudi International.
Twenty-year-old amateur Saud Alsharif will line-up alongside golf’s biggest superstar names when he tees-off in the second annual edition of Saudi Arabia’s only professional tournament, held at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City– from January 30 to February 2.
It is the second year in a row that Saud – who has been a member of the Saudi National Golf Team for five years – will compete in the four-day, US$3,500,000 prize-pool European Tour contest.
At last year’s debut event, big-hitting Saud – then aged only 19 – failed to qualify for the weekend’s final two days after a disappointing second round.
However, he believes that he returns to the 2020 tournament a much more developed player – and attributes that to the support and backing of the growing golfing community in Saudi and the wider Middle East.
Saud said: “I played decent last year. It was pretty tough as playing in such a big event was very new to me. I was expecting a lot from myself, which I think actually weighed me down a bit. But this time I’m going to go in fresh, with the same high expectations, but trusting my game and I believe that will allow me to play well.
“The golf community in Saudi is very, very supportive. We get players at a young age into the game and try and make them love the game. We have very talented players coming through the ranks and we will keep on growing with the community and the support we get around it.
“Our National Team coaches too are very, very good guys. I’ve benefitted so much from just seeing them even in the last month alone, and I played really well in [recent competitions in] Morocco and Oman.
“We’re just trying to work on our mentality with coach Jamie McConnell, who’ll be my caddie at the Saudi International. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of my technique at the moment – it’s all about keeping my head in the game and that’s what I need to do.”
When he takes to the tee box at the end of the month, Saud will be playing alongside global golfing icons including World #1 Brooks Koepka, defending Saudi International champion Dustin Johnson, current British Open champion Shane Lowry, and US fan-favourite Phil Mickelson. Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, and four-times major winning South African Ernie Els are some of the other household names competing.
While his opposition may appear somewhat daunting, Saud is taking it all in his stride – and even believes playing alongside the world’s best golfers will only improve his game.
He said: “It is very, very good for us to have this caliber of players playing in the second Saudi International. It’s a real pleasure for me to be part of that field, and I would love to take the opportunity to play well. I think the tournament is going to keep helping Saudi golf and benefit the community around it.
“I always tell myself that if I play with better players, I am only going to benefit from that. That is the mentality every kid should have, especially if they want to take the game on more seriously. You should always seek to play with better players, no matter the age difference. Just try and be competitive.”
Expanding on that view, Saud – who hopes to make it professionally – continued: “Golf should always be fun. If you’re not having fun, then you should reset and see what’s going wrong. It can be a difficult sport to learn at the start, so it’s important at that point to try and surround yourself with people that motivate you. I’ve loved golf from a young age and I just want to keep on getting better, which motivates me. For the young kids, the golf community here is always so supportive, so they should get out and play.”
Completing the contingent of Saudi players lining-up in the tournament will be the Kingdom’s first and only professional player, Othman Almulla.
Tickets are now on sale, priced at 50 SAR per day or 160 SAR for a full tournament pass (four days). Exclusive concert tickets will be available soon.
For more tournament information, visit www.golfsaudi.com/en-us/saudi-international
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