Abu Dhabi: After two days of rubbing shoulders and sharing tee-boxes with the biggest stars in global golf, Emirati amateur Suhail Al Marzouqi has waved goodbye to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship — and promised he’ll be back.
With the game’s biggest names trading blows on an unforgiving National Course, Al Marzouqi followed up a promising opening round of 81 with an 18-over second round of 90. Always viewed as a longshot to make the cut, the 20-year-old believes his debut appearance in a professional tournament has been worthwhile.
“I had a few ups and downs but it was a great experience,” he said. “I had a lot of fun and learnt a few lessons about handling pressure and getting out of trouble. It still feels a little unreal, like a dream. I’ve been hanging around in the locker room and meeting so many players — everybody has been really helpful. I met Tiger at the Pro-Am dinner and Todd Hamilton gave me a few insights into chipping from the rough. I want to thank JB [Hansen] and Gary [Lockerbie] too; they’ve given me a lot of time out there and passed on lots of tips and bits of advice. It’s all been one big learning curve and everything — apart from my score — has been great. I definitely want to come back.”
Displaying confidence well beyond his years, a defiant Al Marzouqi bobbed and weaved as the National Course bullied his naturally aggressive game. All the while, a vocal horde of khandura-clad Emiratis — led by national team golfers, Abdullah and Ahmad Al Musharrakh — walked beside the home hope, offering nuggets of advice and buoying his spirits.
With Hassan Al Musharrakh carrying Al Marzouqi’s bag, it was a rallying shout from Abdullah that prefixed the round’s magical moment: a beautiful-weighted chip-in on 18 — the amateur’s second on the hole over consecutive days.
“I love 18; it was amazing to chip in again and hear the crowd cheer,” said Al Marzouqi.
“I hit my wedge really thick from the bunker and ended up in the media interview area. I was waiting for confirmation on where the drop zone was and Abdullah said ‘chip it in’ and I did — he called it.”
Al Marzouqi’s see-saw display received warm praise from Ahmad Al Musharrakh, who played in last year’s championship and turned professional a mere four months ago. “He’s done really well. I know from experience that it’s not easy being out here in front of so many people and hitting balls on the range next to people like Justin Rose and Tiger Woods. It’s exciting but there is no escaping the size of the task facing you,” said Ahmad, who travels to Hua Hin, Thailand, this week for a tournament where he could earn his PGA Asian Tour card.
“I’ve been scoring well recently and I feel comfortable. I’m really enjoying the game, both playing and practising. I’ve been spending a lot of time shaping shots on the range and I’ve put in a few solid rounds on the back of the work,” he added.
As the country’s first homegrown professional, Ahmad, 22, revealed the burden of carrying a nation’s hopes — a feeling Al Marzouqi will no doubt relate to — has not overloaded his young shoulders. “I’ve had to completely change my lifestyle and mentality. Turning a hobby into a profession has not been easy but getting my card on the Asian Tour would be huge – it’s a big week for me.”