UAE golf squad get in the swing of things for Nomura Cup

Chris Vallender, the national golf coach, says the preparation of his four-man team ahead of the August tournament at Fiji is the best he has seen.

Coach Chris Vallender, left, watches Ahmed Al Musharrekh tee off at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, with UAE team members Khalid Yousuf (in black) and Abdullah Al Musharrekh.
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Chris Vallender, the national golf coach, said his players have never been in better shape following last week's confidence-building training camp in Oman.

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The four-man senior team, Khalid Yousuf, Abdullah Al Musharrekh, Ahmed Al Musharrekh and Saif Thabet, were made to work hard by the South African former tour professional who was "pleasantly surprised" by how his men looked on the golf course.

This was all preparation for their forthcoming events on the domestic and international circuits, in particular the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation Team Championship, better known as the Nomura Cup, to be held at Denarau in Fiji from August 16-19, golf's second biggest amateur tournament after the Eisenhower Trophy.

Vallender expected the quartet to be slightly rusty, but the three-day camp proved to him they had all put in the hours on the driving range and putting green.

"That was the best golf I have seen from a UAE team so far away from a tournament," he said. "They looked more confident than ever before, and the scoring was really low over the three days we had in Oman.

"This is 100 per cent the best shape I have seen them in at this stage of the year. It was a pleasant surprise.

"They usually play like this a week or so before a tournament after we have been working together for a while, so to see all four shoot so well was fantastic. The quality of play was impressive.

"They worked much harder this time. That was the noticeable thing for me. They still had fun, but they took it all a lot more seriously. There wasn't so much joking around, which was good to see.

"They all still need to concentrate more on their short game, which is so important no matter how well you are playing. But we all feel better about what we can achieve."

The camp, organised by the Emirates Golf Federation, had the team playing a couple of rounds at Oman's Muscat Hills and Ghalla Wentworth courses, which included some friendly games against their Omani counterparts.

The Nomura Cup will mark the beginning of the UAE team's season on the international circuit with their destination, Fiji, the first South Pacific Island nation to be selected to host this biennial tournament.

Thabet, 23, the newest team member, who has just returned to golf after trying his hand on the UAE Equestrian Team, said the Oman trip was perfect preparation for the tests which lie ahead.

"We played 18 holes in the morning and then 18 holes late afternoon every single day on brand new courses," he said. "It was 95 per cent humidity and really hot, and we coped well in those conditions, which you have to be able to deal with in competitive golf. This was the first time I travelled with the team and it was an opportunity for me, and all of us, to get to know each other and our respective games. You need to trust your teammate in a foursome or fourball situation.

"To be honest, we can't wait for Fiji now. We all played well in Oman and while we will keep training together and continue to work hard, we feel confident of going to the Nomura Cup and getting the best-ever result for the UAE."

Saeed Albudoor, the general manager of the Emirates Golf Club, said: "It was a successful camp thanks to the enthusiastic response from the players, who are really looking forward to the challenges ahead. Playing at the Ghalla Wentworth, which is one of the oldest sand courses in the region, was a great experience for them. Nine holes at the Ghalla have been fully grassed now, and the rest will be done by the end of the year.

"We are committed to providing the players with the best playing opportunities that we can and this trip to Fiji is very much part of our initiative to try and keep the momentum going."