Taking part in only his fourth European Tour event, entrusted with striking the tournament’s opening tee shot, and with studies limiting him to only one practice round, Ahmad Skaik found it understandably difficult to get a decent night’s sleep on Wednesday.
Then the UAE’s No 1 golfer, still an amateur, went out and shot 4-under par at the Aviv Dubai Championship - the lowest round ever by an Emirati on Europe’s lead circuit.
“I’m very, very happy,” Skaik told The National following a 68 around the Fire course that comprised five birdies and a solitary bogey. “I don’t have words to describe how happy I am. Just to see the smile on my dad’s face.”
Skaik Senior was there early on Thursday at Jumeirah Golf Estates – one of a number out to support his son - as Ahmad got the tournament officially under way at 7am, just as he did last year.
Now, with experience to call upon as well from the past two Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships, Skaik is obviously starting to settle into his lofty surrounds.
“There was pressure, yeah,” he said. “I’m getting a bit more comfortable, obviously, the more I play in these. Still nervous and got to get through more of these to get really comfortable.
“But I feel pretty good. I’m just really happy. Just shown myself that I can compete in these events going forward.”
Skaik, 24, took encouragement from last week’s fine showing at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Dubai, where he became only the second Emirati to make the cut at the prestigious amateur event.
Saying his game going in was nowhere near where he thought it should be – his International Relations coursework had, rightfully, taken precedence – Skaik eventually finished 43rd.
On Thursday, two birdies in the opening three holes helped relieve any lingering tension. He reeled off another three - on holes 7, 12 and 13 - before a bogey at 14 halted slightly his momentum.
A superb effort, really, especially given he had only one practice round. In hindsight, Skaik shouldn't have left completing a "pretty big project" dangerously close to deadline.
"One more semester to go, so really excited to get done," Skaik said. “It’s pretty tough to manage between studies and golf, it gets a bit too much. I was very stressed doing my studies and then coming and playing these big events.
“But I keep telling myself that I’m stronger than that and can do anything I want. Just got to manage my time better and not leave everything to the last minute.”
It seems to have worked out all right. Skaik sits on the leaderboard beside Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington, European Ryder Cup veterans with 15 European Tour wins each. Three of Harrington’s are majors. Dane Joachim B Hansen, meanwhile, heads the standings, on 9-under.
“It’s going to take a while to sink in," said Skaik, attempting now to become the first Emirati to play a weekend on the European Tour. "Just go back home, chill out, relax and hopefully come back tomorrow and do the same.
“The goal coming into this week was to make the cut, and I shot 4-under. Tomorrow I’ll just come out, take it a shot at a time like today, stay calm, stay patient. And see what happens.”