The UAE’s No.1 golfer, Ahmad Skaik, is relishing the prospect of another chance to tee it up alongside some of the best players in the world when he joins the field at this week’s inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Championship (February 3-6) at Al Hamra Golf Club.
The high-profile event will be followed by next week’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic, set to be played over the same course.
It will be the 24-year-old Skaik’s sixth appearance in a DP World Tour event and he revealed that he’s becoming more and more comfortable under the spot light in such a high-pressure environment.
“The first time I played a DP World Tour event I just let the tournament get the better of me,” said Skaik of his DP World Tour debut at the 2020 Golf in Dubai Championship.
“But as you start to play more, you realise that you’re hitting a golf shot, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing an event or practicing, it’s the same golf shot, it’s the same golf course. I know people are watching and want me to do well but you just have to focus on the shot in hand and let the training take over.”
Last year’s AVIV Dubai Championship heralded a new era for golf in the UAE after Skaik carded the lowest DP World Tour round by an Emirati in history on the opening day with an impressive four under par 68 over the Fire course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
It was the second successive week the youngster had made the headlines after his heroics at the previous week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where he became only the second Emirati to make the cut.
Skaik went on to narrowly miss the cut at Jumeirah Golf Estates and did so again at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic last month.
But he has another opportunity to become the first Emirati to play the final 36 holes at DP World Tour event when he tees it up for two weeks in Ras Al Khaimah.
While the majority of the field heading to northern-most Emirate will be taking on the course for the first time, Skaik has plenty of experience of the challenges it poses with numerous outings at Emirates Golf Federation-sanctioned tournaments as well as the Ras Al Khaimah National Matchplay Challenge, which was played on the second day of the season-ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2018.
“I like the course and I think it’s a nice setup,” he said. “It was a fun experience playing the same course setup as the stars of the Challenge Tour a couple of years ago, so I kind of had a feel of how to tackle the trickier setups and the course was in pristine condition.
“Al Hamra provides a nice challenge and I’m excited to play the first ever DP World Tour event there.”
With his studies coming to an end soon, coupled with the desire to compete with the game’s best week after week, Skaik is keen to become a regular on Tour with plans in place to turn professional over the coming months with a helping hand from one of the game’s best coaches.
It’s an exciting time for the young Emirati to be thinking of the professional ranks after last year’s announcement of the European Tour evolving into the DP World Tour. The Tour’s total prize money has broken through the $200 million mark for the first time this season, with a new minimum prize fund of $2 million for all tournaments solely sanctioned by the DP World Tour.
Following the ground-breaking announcement, Guy Kinnings, the DP World Tour’s Deputy CEO, insisted the Tour’s job of growing the game in the region will only be complete when an Emirati wins a tournament on the DP World Tour.
Although Skaik has not been close to getting his hands on a trophy just yet, he insists it is at the top of the priority list.
“If I don’t play to win then what am I doing this for?” he said. “I don’t want to just play for the sake of it, I want to win and become one of the best players in the world.
“It’s great to see the game grow here with the help of the DP World Tour hosting more and more events here each season,” he said. “But we need to have more Emiratis players competing in these events, not just participating. Hopefully I can do it soon.”
He has won 93 worldwide events, including a record-tying 82 on the PGA Tour, and his 15 major championships trails only the 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.
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