Teaching life skills to children with special needs, Dubai Desert Classic hits a hole-in-one

The Heroes of Hope programme is a non-profit initiative that develops sporting, social and interpersonal skills for People of Determination.


Leslie Wilson Jr

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Kids practise in the golf clinic as part of the Heroes of Hope programme. — Photo by Shihab
Kids practise in the golf clinic as part of the Heroes of Hope programme. — Photo by Shihab

Published: Wed 28 Dec 2022, 6:51 PM

Last updated: Tue 3 Jan 2023, 3:01 PM

Bursting with youthful exuberance, little Thomas hits the shiny white golf ball out of the sand bunker and watches wide-eyed as it bounces along the perfectly manicured green grass at the Emirates Golf Club to its intended target.

“Wow, that’s fun!” he shouts out, looking around to see if the other kids in his group are enjoying themselves just as much as he is.

“Was that good?” he asks innocently, addressing the figure to his left.

“You did great, young man,” replies Alastair Brown, the EGC’s head coach as he gives the high-spirited youngster a reassuring hug.

Eleven-year-old Thomas is a member of the Heroes of Hope programme, a non-profit initiative that develops sporting, social and interpersonal skills for People of Determination.

Founded by Hollie Murphy, a personal trainer and multiple-discipline athlete, Heroes of Hope’s primary goal is to create opportunities and pathways for their athletes to help them reach their fitness potential and eventually accomplish their individual dreams.

The golf clinics that Thomas and his friends from Heroes of Hope are enjoying are made possible thanks to a pioneering partnership with the Dubai Desert Classic, one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments which will take place at the Emirates Golf Club from January 26-29, 2023.

As part of the collaboration, the Dubai Desert Classic will conduct three golf clinics for the Heroes of Hope athletes in association with the world-renowned Peter Cowen Academy at the Emirates Golf Club.

Elaborating on the Dubai Desert Classic’s ethos and its objective of partnering with initiatives like the Heroes of Hope programme, Simon Corkill, Executive Tournament Director for DDC, said: “At its core, the Dubai Desert Classic is a long-standing event and an integral part of the community of Dubai, and it is of great importance that we maintain our relationship as an important contributor back to the city and primarily, its thriving young population.

“We are firm supporters of the Al Jalila Foundation and their partners, and initiatives such as Heroes of Hope are fundamental to the growth of Dubai as a society and for the game of golf, and we're delighted to be working closely with the non-profit group ahead of this year's event. “

Corkill, who is one of the most accomplished and respected golf, sport, and lifestyle executive in the business today, highlighted the importance of involving the younger generation to further the growth of golf in the UAE.

“Partnering with an inspiring group such as Heroes of Hope is key to maintaining our connection to the grassroots communities of the UAE and furthering the development of the game of golf at the youth level,” he added.

“It's also about providing pathways into the sport that may not have been easily accessible previously, and we want to ensure that the local golfing scene continues to develop alongside the incredible growth of international attendance and participation at events such as the Dubai Desert Classic. It is truly a privilege to welcome the Heroes of Hope to the Dubai Desert Classic as part of this year's event."

The youngsters from Heroes of Hope, whose ages range from as young as nine-year-old Kyle and Noah to 21-year-old Marwan, will not only get the opportunity to participate in a series of golf clinics under the supervision of the Emirates Golf Club’s pros, including Alistair, Olivia Jackson, and Mark Bruce, but will also be special guests at the Dubai Desert Classic.

The elite field of golfers, who the Heroes of Hope kids can feast their eyes on, includes World Number One Rory McIlroy, 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry, and fellow DP World stars Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox and Tyrrell Hatton.

The 2023 renewal of a tournament that has evolved into one of Dubai’s most prestigious sporting attractions will feature many new additions to the entertainment including a Kids Day on Friday after school and a Picnic Package for all four days of the tournament.

Heroes of Hope founder Hollie Murphy, who has provided critical support and guidance to many youngsters through her caring mentorship, is equally thrilled about the opportunities that lie ahead thanks to programmes like the one with the Desert Classic.

“I think these initiatives are powerful. They are life-changing not only for these children but also for the parents,” she said.

“Often initiatives like this one allow them to do something that they would never have got to do on their own, and for the families on the sidelines, just watching their children mix with others is very inspiring.

“I think there is a lot of hope even for the parents. That’s what we are trying to achieve for the youngsters and everyone and to give them something to dream about,” Murphy added.

“When the kids are actually at tournaments like the Desert Classic, watching the big players, seeing how golf actually operates and how these professional athletes act, it will teach them a lot looking into the future and help them to understand a life that they can have for themselves.

“It’s about building their confidence and their self-esteem and it’s a coming out experience for them to believe in who they are and in their abilities,” she said.

EGC head professional Alastair Brown, who shared Murphy’s sentiments, said working with the Heroes of Hope was an enlightening experience.

“It’s nice to see golf growing through initiatives like these,” he said. “I been working with kids and pole of determination before but it’s always a new experience and something that I can connect with emotionally.

“There was this kid who asked if he could borrow my club and then hit the ball better than I can.

“When I asked him who was his favourite golfer he said without any hesitation, myself!!,” Alistair added.

“You don’t see that kind of confidence every day, These kids are so focused and absolutely love doing sports.”

With the support of the Dubai Desert Classic and the help of the Emirates Golf Club’s coaches, Murphy hopes to help Thomas and his friends Kyle (9), Noah (9), Stephen (10), Hamza (12), Hugh (14), Anais (18), Ketan (20) and Marwan (21) understand life better and to transform them into confident individuals.

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