Dubai amateur hopes to make the cut at Dubai Ladies Masters

The 17-year-old schoolgirl Kavita Sehmi says she can hold her own with champion Lexi Thompson, her Facebook friend.

The Dubai-based amateur Kavita Sehmi, 17, practices at the driving range yesterday before she tees off in the Dubai Ladies Masters today at Emirates Golf Club. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // Kavita Sehmi is relishing mixing it with the cream of the Ladies European Tour.

Sure, the Dubai-based amateur competing this week on a sponsors' invite has experienced some nerves, but that was merely when the confirmation email landed in her inbox late on Saturday night.

Sehmi believes this is the company she deserves to keep, especially as she counts Lexi Thompson, the defending champion with three professional victories, among her Facebook friends.

"Yeah, I met her last year, when my aunt was playing the pro-am," said Sehmi ahead of today's first round around a Majlis course on which she has recorded a personal best 69. "So I got in touch with her a couple of times over Facebook, just the usual, like 'how's it going on tour?'

"When I saw her again this week, I don't think she recognised me, but I explained I was her Facebook friend and she was like 'oh yeah, of course'. And then I saw her again at Monday's Challenge Match. I think finally we're a bit more acquainted."

Sehmi admits Thompson only sometimes responded to her online interest - "she's probably got better things to do, like play golf" - but still considers the 17 year old from Florida a role model.

"She's a long hitter, like me," Sehmi said. "And just so focused."

When Thompson lifted the Dubai trophy last December, she became the youngest professional to win a LET event, and added it to a US LPGA Tour title garnered, in record-breaking fashion, only three months previously at Alabama's Navistar Classic.

Sehmi, also 17, has watched her peer's burgeoning career with particular interest, yet is eager to begin one of her own.

A grade 11 student at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) in nearby Arabian Ranches, she is currently trawling books of six different subjects and attempting too to do SATs, hoping to eventually enrol at an American university, "preferably Stanford or a Californian one".

"Hopefully I'll play Friday and Saturday, but as soon as I finish this tournament I've got to go back and catch up with work," she said. "They haven't given me a break. I've had to take all my work home."

Making the cut in a stellar 108-strong field - Thompson is accompanied by Michelle Wie, Laura Davies and Shanshan Feng - represents the main objective, and Sehmi has been working with Stephen Deane, the head pro at Emirates Golf Club, to achieve her target.

A booming driver with a recently sculpted short game, the Kenya-born youngster boasts a decent local amateur CV. She already sounds the real deal.

"I've to just take every shot as it comes and make sure I commit to every one," said Sehmi, who moved to the UAE five years ago.

"In amateur golf you can get away with a bad shot, but this is professional golf. You've to be 100 per cent dedicated to every shot you hit. I started working with Stephen only two weeks ago and was nowhere near close to being ready. But now I am, I'm going to get out there and have fun.

"It's such a huge opportunity and I'm so thankful to 'golf in Dubai' for it. I was over the moon when I heard, slightly nervous. But now I'm so relaxed. I just can't wait."

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