Chris Cannon is ready to fire a shot at Dubai Open

Chris Cannon’s father is a famous golf photographer, but after watching Ernie Els play, the younger Cannon was motivated to pursue a professional playing career of his own, Gary Meenaghan reports.
UAE-based golfer Chris Cannon is no stranger to the Els Club and intends to make the most of the opportunity to play the UAE’s first Asian Tour event on a course he is well acquainted with. Ian MacNicol / Getty Images
UAE-based golfer Chris Cannon is no stranger to the Els Club and intends to make the most of the opportunity to play the UAE’s first Asian Tour event on a course he is well acquainted with. Ian MacNicol / Getty Images

DUBAI // Twelve years after being inspired by Ernie Els’s intoxicating sudden-death play-off win at the 2002 Open Championship, Chris Cannon is hoping to channel the South African’s spirit when he tees off on Thursday on the four-time major winner’s signature course.

Cannon, a UAE-based Englishman, will contest the inaugural Dubai Open at the Els Club and intends to make the most of the opportunity to play the country’s first Asian Tour event on a course he is well acquainted with. The 27-year-old has played it “four or five times in the lead up” to this tournament.

This weekend’s appearance marks the completing of a circle for Cannon having only decided to pursue a career in professional golf after watching Els at Muirfield. He was 14 and working as a runner for his father, the renowned golf photographer David Cannon, who has published several books and covered his 100th major earlier this year at the US PGA Championship.

“Growing up, golf was more of a game I played with my dad on holidays until he offered me the chance to work with him at the British Open,” Cannon said.

“I’d met Ernie a few times at photo shoots and stuff and he had always been incredibly nice, so it was fantastic to watch him go out there and pull it out of the bag because I was supporting him massively.

“I remember watching him win the play-off and the atmosphere was just incredible. As a supporter it was intense, so I could only imagine what it must have been like for him. That was it for me. I said to myself: ‘That’s something I want to experience one day’.”

Within a few months, Cannon found himself in Els’s house holding the claret Jug and later flew on the former world No 1’s private jet. “He was always just very inspirational and incredibly helpful. He got me three sets of Titleist irons in a row and I also got to play with him at Queenwood one time,” said Cannon, who met Els most recently at the Dubai Desert Classic this year.

Cannon turned pro in 2009 having benefited from a scholarship at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where he was teammates with Webb Simpson, the 2012 US Open winner.

After a few years in the USA, he joined the Mena Golf Tour, relocating to Dubai and capitalising on the country’s “ideal playing conditions” and “excellent golf facilities”.

Now, as a Mena Tour invitee, he is ready to contest the Asian Tour season-finale at Els’s par-72 course in Dubai Sports City.

“It’s been an amazing journey so far, and obviously it’s pretty fitting the tournament is being played on Ernie’s course,” Cannon said.

“I played it for the first time in 2009 when it first opened and it has come on so much since. The more I play it, the more I enjoy it – and obviously any course you’ve played before is always an advantage.”

Cannon will attend Asian Tour qualifying school next month in Thailand, but for now his focus is solely on performing to his highest level this weekend. If he does that, he said, he has the ability, knowledge and belief to win the $500,000 (Dh1.8m) event.

“Any competitor who is serious about being the best always looks to win and I am no different – sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s sport,” said Cannon, who finished 14th from the Mena Tour’s 64-player field.

“I had a good solid season on the Mena Tour without ever quite pulling it all together, but I made some good steps forward. The most important thing for me though is to go out and put 100 per cent in. I’m feeling mentally strong and physically good, so there is no reason why I can’t go out and put a good win together.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM

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