Butch Harmon School of Golf (BHSG) and GEMS Sports Academy have joined hands to provide youngsters in the region the first-of-its-kind High School Golf Programme in the UAE.
The programme, which is expected to begin in September this year with the new school term, is the brainchild of Justin Parsons, the Director of Instruction at BHSG.
The objective is to provide high-level training for talented youths and prepare them academically for university scholarships in the US, thus creating here what has historically been the most trodden path to stardom in the sport.
Open to students aged 12-17, Parsons is hoping to start with a batch of four and get to a maximum group size of 12 by the end of the year.
The students will receive the golf instruction, including golf-specific physical training, at BHSG, which is the first facility opened outside the US by renowned golf guru Butch Harmon, and follow an American curriculum high school programme at GEMS Sports Academy.
Parsons, a Sport360 MEGA winner of Best Teaching Professional in the region, said: “It’s very exciting that we are doing something very different. It’s also a nice Dubai story. Obviously, you have the IMG School in Florida and a few others, but we now have the infrastructure in Dubai to give similar facilities to the students here.
“The aim of GEMS Sports Academy is to help students complete their high school while maintaining elite level of sports training. GEMS have tied up with IMG and there is almost a guarantee that they will be accepted at various collegiate levels, be it Division I, II or III colleges. We also have very good connections with universities like the University of South Florida through Butch.
“I foresee a very bright future for these players. Not everyone from our programme will become a PGA Tour star, but we can ensure each one of them goes through golf scholarship in American colleges.
“Butch has been very supportive. One of the things he said when opening the school here was that he wanted to see a player from the UAE on the PGA Tour one day. We aren’t there yet, but we haven’t forgotten that and we do want to make that happen.”
Parsons said the fact that both BHSG and GEMS Sports Academy are situated in Dubai Sports City, it will make it a lot easier for students. A normal day in the life of these students would be meeting at the school at 07:00. The golfers will get to BHSG by 07:15. They will work there for a couple of hours before getting back to the school for academics at 09:30 and will be free by 15:30. They can obviously go back to the Els Club for as much practice as they want to do.
“From the academics point of view, it is with online classes as well as classroom support. The online classes are important because it can then be taken with the students if they are playing tournaments for several weeks in a row,” said Parsons.
“The golf component will have the kids at BHSG five days a week. They will be working with our coaches on the range and on the golf course, and they will have at least one weekly session with me.
“We will also work on their golf fitness. We have got medical support from Dr Charles Jones of California Chiropractic and Sports Medicine. All the players will be screened and Dr Jones and my team will then work on any imbalances they may have. Our fitness experts will then deliver one-on-one sessions on golf fitness with them.”
The fee structure, Parsons admitted, is on the higher side, but it will still make economic sense for parents in the UAE and rest of Asia.
“Unfortunately, this is a programme that is going to appeal to a certain section of the population. The price is available on request, but we are in competition with the academies in the US,” he said.
“We have got a lot of interest already from parents in the UAE, and also from India. The advantage we have is that children in these parts of the world will not have to travel all the way to the US. They will be closer home and yet enjoy facilities that are as good, if not better, than in the US.”
Yousef Majid and Sattam Al Gosaibi from team Foregolf earned the right to represent Bahrain in the grand finale of the 18th edition of the Xerox Corporate Golf Challenge after winning the qualifying round at the Royal Golf Club in Riffa, Bahrain.
More than 80 golfers participated in what turned out to be a thrilling qualifier.
The winning pair, and runners-up Keith Watson and Declan Lee of Team REZ Hygiene, were tied with a score of 43, and had to be separated through card countback.
Watson and Lee will also make a trip to Ajman for the final as runners-up.
BIRCH TRIUMPHS BY TWO
Aaron Birch fired a 73 to win his second consecutive Rivoli Monthly Medal as 63 players took to the Arabian Ranches course for the June event.
Birch won by two over Viv Albertyn and Denver Farrell, who finished on 75 and were placed second and third following a card countback.
In the Ladies division, Adele McKelvey was the champion as she finished her round with an 81.
In the Net Divisions, Patricia Sidey won the ladies division by two shots with a net 72, while John Hainey won the B Division with net 71. Charles Jones shot a net 67 for victory in the A Division.
DRAMA AT THE RANCHES
It was a thriller at the Betterball Stableford event at Ranches as four pairs finished with identical scores of 44 points in the Men’s Division.
After a four-way countback, Franck Michaud and Alain Delacourte were adjudged winners ahead of Nigel and Gleb Fenwick, Ian Souter and Mark Kenaghan and Steve Reed and Pat McSheffrey.
The Mixed Ladies Division was also decided following a countback.
Tom Freer and Rebecca Riley won over Douglas McLennan and Colette Doughty after both teams recorded 45 points.
In what is a reflection on the array of talent on show, the first two events in the Rainbow Nation have produced two different winners and, if the script holds good, a new champion could well emerge when the tournament finishes on Friday.
That certain someone will need to fire on all cylinders to step up to the plate and conquer a field that offers no clear favourite on a course known for its fast-paced and undulating greens.
Though last week’s winner Craig Hinton is missing from the line-up, the presence of four MENA Golf Tour winners and Bryandrew Roelofsz will add star value to the event which will see a full field of 120 players, representing 15 countries, battle it out for honours.
South African Roelofsz, who currently leads the Big Easy Tour Order of Merit standings, will be looking to rediscover the form that won him the South to East Challenge, the inaugural MENA Golf Tour event in South Africa two weeks ago, and sign off on a bright note.
Roelofsz believes the co-sanctioned events between the Sunshine Big Easy Tour and the MENA Tour is a brilliant platform to develop golf locally and abroad.
“Having these events is great for guys on both the Tours. It’s a great platform that has been started and, hopefully, we can have many more events like this,” he said.
Hoping to make his presence felt will be Thriston Lawrence, the winner of the MENA Tour’s Order of Merit title last year. The 19-year-old prodigy showed signs of his considerable promise with a top-10 finish at the South to East Challenge, and will be eager to finish with a win.
Other MENA Tour notables in the field include Scotland’s Paul Doherty, Englishman Scott Campbell, the winner of 2015 MENA Tour Championship, and Antonio Costa of Chile who all will be aiming to finish as strongly as possible at Waterkloof Golf Club.
One of the most popular courses in the Pretoria area, Waterkloof — formerly known as Monument Golf Club — was established in 1969, before it was redesigned by Peter Matkovich in 2004.
Webb Theuns and Patrick McCarthy came out on top after shooting 46 Stableford points as sixty EGF members from across the UAE took to the Yas Links Abu Dhabi course on Saturday.
Theuns and playing partner McCarthy claimed victory after the two players combined for an impressive 46 points, three points better then any other pair.
Behind them in second-place was Ian Haywood and Damien Ward, who finished with 43 points.
Thanks to producing the best back nine score, Ramesh Nagaraju and Ben Mulvaney ended up third, ahead of Jacob Hall and Oliver Seldon in fourth and Peter Lane and Jeremiah Kaplan in fifth.
All five pairs received prizes, while there were also on the course prizes for some of the best individual performances.
Rotana Hotels rewarded the golfer with the longest drives, snapped up by winners Manny Ostojic and Andrew Smolak. The final prize went to Sami Al Zarooni for getting nearest to the pin.
The second EGF Summer Swing of 2016 takes place on July 16th at Al Zorah Golf Club.