A whole host of the UAE’s homegrown players are set to feature in one of the strongest Challenge Tour fields in recent history when the Abu Dhabi Challenge gets underway tomorrow at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Nineteen former DP World Tour winners with a combined 46 top tier wins between them will tee it up this week, including Stephen Gallacher, David Howell and Alvaro Quiros.
They will go head-to-head with the UAE’s No.1 golfer Ahmad Skaik, several members of the UAE National Team and a number of UAE residents.
“That’s the beauty of the Challenge Tour, it gives local players the chance to rub shoulders with the latest crop coming through,” said Gallacher, two-time winner of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, who is looking to regain his full playing privileges on the DP World Tour after losing his card last season.
“It can give them a bit of hope and the impetuous to work as hard as they can to try and get out on the circuit. This is obviously a stepping stone to get onto the DP World Tour, so hopefully this event can give them that drive to work hard and emulate what we are doing.”
The Abu Dhabi Challenge is the seventh tournament on this year’s global 2023 Road to Mallorca schedule, which features a record overall prize fund and a minimum of 29 tournaments, staged across three continents in 18 different countries.
Ugo Coussaud currently leads the way in the Rankings after picking up his first Challenge Tour title last moth at The Challenge presented by KGA in Bangalore, India.
“It feels good to be here, the weather is great and the course is in good condition with a perfect layout,” said the Frenchman. “The game feels good right now, let’s see what happens over the next two weeks.”
The return of the Challenge Tour to the UAE for the first time since 2018 is part of the long-term partnership between the European Tour group and Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), where 30 spots have been allocated to the EGF to provide a pathway for both Emirati golfers and residents of the UAE.
Leading the way for the UAE will be Skaik, who has competed in numerous events on the DP World Tour schedule in recent years. The Emirati comes into the tournament full of confidence after returning from a long-term injury lay-off to successfully defend the Presidents Cup at this week’s host venue in March.
“I’m very excited, the game is looking good.” said Skaik, who begins his first round at 08:05 alongside Coussaud and Casey Jarvis. “The likes of Ugo are the guys I want to be playing with on a regular basis, so I can learn from them and take my game to the next level. It’s an honour to be paired with him, I’ll be watching him closely while I’m out there the first two rounds and learning as much as I can.”
Joining Skaik in the field will be his brother Mohammad, as well as fellow UAE Nationals Khalfa Al Masaood, Rashid Al Jassmy, Rashed Al Emadi, Rashed Al Naqbi and the UAE’s first ever professional golfer Ahmed Al Musharrekh.
In addition to this, a number of UAE residents will also be competing against the global stars of the future including local golf coach Louis Gaughan, who will be making his Challenge Tour debut.
The Scotsman, who resides in Abu Dhabi, won the Emirates PGA Championship last week to secure his place in the Abu Dhabi Challenge and he is now looking to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s amazing, I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s the first time I’d have played in such a big event. I’ve got no expectations. I’d normally be at work, teaching golf, so to be out playing is a nice change.”
Golf fans in the Middle East are encouraged to come down and support the UAE’s homegrown players with entry free of charge and no ticket required.