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  • Alistair Tait

Middle East Swing has everything but local talent

Updated: Feb 23, 2020

The European Tour's Middle East Swing makes me question the whole “grow the game” philosophy everyone in golf is peddling these days.

Last week's $7 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and this week's $3.25 million Omega Dubai Desert Classic have one thing in common: you won’t find a UAE professional in either field. Indeed, it’s hard to find a UAE professional in any professional field.

There are just four UAE players ranked in the Official World Golf Ranking. Three of them are amateurs. They are all ranked 2,079th, the lowest ranking on the OWGR.

The single pro in the ranking, Ahmed Al Musharrekh, played nine times on the Meena Tour last season. He missed the cut in seven, was disqualified in another and finished T44 in the Al Ain Open. He earned $408 from that performance, the only money he made on the Meena Tour last year.

In case you think there are players coming through the amateur ranks who will soon take their place in the world order, think again. There are only two UAE players ranked on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Ahmad Skaik holds the distinction as the UAE’s leading amateur at world number 3,230. Saif Thabet sits in 6,478th place.

Skaik played in Abu Dhabi as one of two amateurs alongside England’s Josh Hill. Skaik shot rounds of 84 and 85 to finish bottom of the field on 25 over par.

There are no UAE nationals in this week's Dubai field.

The European Tour has been holding tournaments in the UAE since 1989, with the advent of the Dubai Desert Classic. The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship began in 2006.

The UAE has literally poured millions into golf. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship was a fantastic tournament on a superb course with a world class field. Lee Westwood won his 25th European Tour title beating a cast of characters that included Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood, Bryson DeChambeau, Shane Lowry, Bernd Wiesberger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Eddie Pepperell. to name but a few stars.

Many of the above names play this week. The Dubai Desert Classic is so well established it’s one of the longest running current events on the European circuit. It is held on the Majlis course at the Emirates Club, the first, and best, grass golf course in the Middle East. The UAE now boasts a plethora of good golf courses.

These courses might adhere to build it and they will come theory inasmuch as they are very busy, but they haven’t done much for the build it and they will breed notion. Clearly, the UAE hasn’t used these courses as the inspiration to nurture young UAE talent, or we wouldn’t have to scroll to the bottom of the Official World Golf Ranking list for a UAE entry.

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