I once asked Greg Norman his No1 reason why the Australian professional golfers do so well in tournaments across the world.
The legendary Great White Shark did not have to think much for the answer. “It’s just that we travel well. We seem to adjust wherever you take us.”
Going by Norman’s philosophy, Christofer Rahm seems to be making the right career decision. The 18-year-old Dubai-based Swede, recently crowned Emirates Golf Federation’s Men’s Order of Merit winner this season, is determined to become a professional golfer.
So far, thanks to his father Magnus’ job with Ericsson, he has lived in Sweden, Spain, Brazil and India, before moving to the UAE in 2014.
Winner of four of the 10 EGF Order of Merit events he participated in this season, the Jumeirah Golf Estates (JGE) member Rahm is planning to spend another year playing amateur golf in the UAE. He will then go to the United States for college golf, and turn pro while earning his degree.
“It was nice to secure the Order of Merit win this year. I played in a few EGF tournaments last year, but wasn’t a member until late in the season,” said Rahm, who secured a couple of second place finishes in 2014-15.
“But this year was different. I played consistently throughout the year. I may not have scored very low rounds, but I was very consistent. The only tournament I did not play well was at the JGE. Maybe, I was feeling the home pressure.”
Having finished his school (American School of Dubai) this week, Rahm is planning to take a gap this year in studies, but there is a good reason for that.
“I want to take a break from my studies to focus on golf. I want to practice a lot and play several tournaments this year,” said Rahm who aspires to join the Northwestern University in Chicago because of the quality of their golf team and playing facilities in the campus.
“I will play the EGF events, and I am going to play on the MENA Golf Tour. The main thing is that I want to improve further as a golfer before I go to the US. I do want to get a degree, but I am determined to play golf professionally.”
Having lived in various parts of the world, Rahm is loving it in Dubai. “I enjoy it a lot. The UAE is a great place to live, and even more so if you are a golfer. The golf courses and the practice facilities are great and so is the weather,” said Rahm.
“I practice at the European Tour Performance Institute (ETPI) in JGE. They have great facilities and some very good coaches. I was training with Mathew Parker there. Unfortunately, he moved on, but we are still in touch.
“The last time I was in Sweden, all my friends were coaching indoors. That’s never an issue here in Dubai. I do not mind the summer heat and prefer it to cold weather any day.”
The effect of travel shows on Rahm. While fellow Swede Henrik Stenson is his favourite golfer, his childhood idol was the late Seve Ballesteros.
“Of all the golfers, I love Henrik. What I like most about him is he is always up there, but more importantly, he is a very good human being,” said Rahm.
“But growing up in Spain, I idolized Seve. I loved his imagination on the golf course.
“I feel I am a bit like Seve. I am not all about technique. I like being creative on the golf course like him.”
Rahm understands he is about to embark on a difficult journey, and says this would not have been possible without the support of his parents Magnus and Cecilia.
“What I have achieved and what I dream could not have been possible without them. Even after a bad round, they are there to encourage me. Really, they are my biggest fans,” he added.
Now in its fifth edition at Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club, the competition has proved to be a big hit with hundreds taking to the greens. And next month’s will be no different.
Beginning on the first day of Ramadan, which could begin on June 6 (and can change according to the moon sighting), the series will run for a month with daily and overall prizes to be won.
Open to players with a valid handicap, the format will see them play in a nine-hole stableford competition and they can play as many times as they want per day.
“We run the tournament each year and it’s something people can look forward to that they can play some competitive golf at Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club,” said Mark Ruddy, golf events manager at the venue.
“The previous editions have been a huge success. Last year, we had over 250 players play throughout Ramadan with over 800 entries so we were quite overwhelmed by the response. People were playing six or seven times an average and, besides the regulars, there were a lot of new faces which was great to see.”
With the Ramadan Stableford Series just one of many events on Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club’s calendar, Ruddy isn’t surprised by how highly it’s regarded and expects an even bigger turn-out this year.
“With the feedback we got from the players so far, I think we will have even bigger numbers. We expect more than 1,000 entries and that is quite impressive,” he said.
The series is open for juniors, visitors, Emirates Golf Club and Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club members, with entry fees priced at Dh10 per play plus the standard 9-holes green fee.
Golfers can play from 07:00 to 21:00 daily, while on Wednesdays, the course will be open until 01:00.
With not long to go until the series begins, Ruddy insists it’s a tournament not to be missed.
“The best thing about this tournament is that it’s really popular and it’s great value,” he said. “There are attractive prizes to win daily while there are accolades for the overall top-three. It’s ideal for those who want to keep playing the sport throughout the summer and get ready for the winter season when it begins.”
What: Golf World Ramadan 9-Hole Stableford Series
Where: Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club
When: From June 6 (dates could change according to moon sighting) until July 7/8 (when Eid Al Fatr begins)
Contact: For more information, visit www.golfandshootingshj.com
Rahm, who won the men’s Order of Merit this year after winning four of the 11 events he played in, could not finish the season in style, but his superb round of four-under par 68 did liven up the proceedings on the final day of the tournament.
Rahm paid the price of an inconsistent opening round over the Earth course (78) and had to settle for the second place behind Lobo, who closed with a one-under par 71 on Fire following his 73 over Earth.
One player who did all the hard work over the much tougher Earth course on Friday was ladies champion Kim Chiang. The 15-year-old, who defended her Order of Merit Championship title, could afford to shoot a 79 at the Fire course yesterday after a stunning bogey-free round of six-under par 66 – a course record for ladies – on the opening day.
Chiang aggregated 145 for the two rounds and was a two-shot winner over Els Club’s Anastacia Bakal and Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Alison Muirhead.
Lobo, who finished his schooling at British School Al Khubairat this year, started the final round two shots ahead of Stephen Loftus, and was never in danger of losing the title as he played solid golf.
The Brazilian led all the way through, dropping just one shot on the 17th hole.
“I really wanted to finish the season with a trophy. But I knew Chris was playing really well ahead of me. I wanted to play a bogey-free round and just hang in there and make things a little difficult for him,” said Lobo.
Rahm, who is a member at Jumeirah Golf Estates, was delighted with his round, but disappointed to miss out on some more silverware.
“I have never played well in a tournament in JGE. So, to finally shoot 68 and give myself a chance was good, but my opening round left too much work to be done to catch Tiago,” said Rahm, who is a student at Dubai American School.
Chiang, who studies at Dubai American Academy, said: “It was a completely different day from yesterday when I just could not do any wrong. It was easily the best round of golf I ever played. Thanks to the 66, I could make all the mistakes today and still win.”
One of the perks of winning the championship for Lobo and Chiang is that along with Rahm and ladies Order of Merit champion Alison Muirhead, they will be sent by the EGF on an all-expense paid trip to attend the Singha Thailand Amateur Golf Championship in Bangkok at the end of August.
Men’s Division (Gross)
144 – Tiago Lobo 73-71
146 – Christofer Rahm 78-68
148 – Bilbo Perrot 76-72, Stephen Loftus 75-73
150 – Martin Fenandez 79-71
151 – Matthew Baxter 79-72
156 – Aarkesh Bhatia 83-73
Ladies Division (Gross)
145 – Kim Chiang 66-79
147 – Anastacia Bakal 76-71, Alison Muirhead 76-71
155 – Madeleen Grosskopf 77-78
160 – Sahana Paravantavida 81-79
Junior Divison (Gross)
139 – Zubair Bin Mohd Firdaus 72-67
151 – Aryaan Kumar 75-76
156 – Tariq El Chaib 85-71