Grassroots golf programme starts off in AD to inspire Emirati youngsters

Matt Jones - Editor 21:16 13/12/2015
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For the future: ADSC launches ground-breaking 5-year free grassroots programme.

With the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship just a month away, a grassroots golf programme has teed off in the capital hoping to inspire the next generation of Emirati golfers.

The Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) and HSBC launched the ‘Champions of Tomorrow’ programme yesterday, which will introduce more than 2,000 local schoolchildren to the game.

Students from eight local schools will receive coaching at the world class facilities of the capital’s four clubs – Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Yas Links Golf Club.

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The development programme aims to further enhance the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship’s legacy to grow the game of golf among youngsters.

With the trio of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler – the future of golf – set to lead the field at the Championship, which takes place between January 21-24, organisers believe it’s the perfect time for kids to pick up a club.

“One of the aspects of this programme is to have the kids come here and get a sense of what professional golf is like,” said HSBC’s David Kotheimer.

“To have that experience is something very tangible that they can take with them.”

For both HSBC and the ADSC, the ultimate aim of the programme is to be a breeding ground for a future crop of professional golfers from the Emirates.

“Our CEO was in Shaghai recently and they have a junior programme which graduates elite golfers by the end of it. We wanted to start something like this to focus on increasing golf awareness in Abu Dhabi,” said ADSC’s Saif Omar Thabet.

“We know the percentage of UAE golfers in the UAE is not a lot but with this initiative, we will definitely see an increase in numbers.

“We have fantastic facilities. We have great courses. The missing link is the UAE national families going to the golf clubs. The perspective here has always been the clubs were too private, that you need to be members. We’re trying to change that.

“Hopefully with this new approach we will see the numbers increasing and definitely the awareness of golf increase among the Emirati population.”

The grassroots programme is just the latest offering in HSBC’s long relationship with the UAE, according to Kotheimer.

“HSBC has been in the UAE for 70 years in 2016 and we have a long and important history in this country and we’re proud of that,” he said.

“It’s really good that we can do something like this programme in order to contribute back at the grass roots level and see the next level of Emirati golfers materialise.

“More Emirati golfers playing at the highest level is absolutely the goal. It’s something that’s not done overnight but you have to start somewhere.

“You’ll see that group of Emiratis emerge over time to grow this sport in the UAE and hopefully participate at some point in the future on the professional circuit.”

Two local youngsters who definitely see golf as part of their future are Emirati twins Mohammed and Hamda Al Mharbi, both aged seven.

“I think I would like to take up golf. Girls and boys can both play and I would like to play more,” said Emirates National School pupil, Hamda.

Mohammed added: “I haven’t played before, this was my first time, but I would like to take it up. Maybe one day I can come here and play professionally. Maybe my mum will let me play at the back of our house and then I will come here to play at the club.”

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