Abu Dhabi: Graeme McDowell has held his native Northern Ireland up as an example to UAE golf, after he and fellow countrymen Rory McIlroy, Gareth Maybin and Michael Hoey all impressed on day one of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Northern Ireland has 93 golf clubs serving a landmass almost six times smaller than the UAE, which boasts just 19 clubs. But it still produced McDowell, who won the US Open in 2010, as well as 2011 Majors winners Darren Clarke and McIlroy. "It's a real purple patch for Northern Irish golf at the moment and it's a lot of fun to be part of. Irish golf in general has a lot of strength in depth," he said.
McDowell, who finished on 141 (72, 69) three under par after round two, added: "We have great junior systems and it's produced a lot of strong players, but you have to give a lot of thanks to the golf clubs to have made the kids feel welcome. Thankfully golf's very affordable. You go to a lot of countries and golf's not affordable at all and in fact it's a very elitist game still in a lot of parts of the world.
"Thankfully in Ireland the game is affordable. Okay equipment may be quite expensive, but £100 (Dh574) to join a golf club for a year is not a lot to ask. I was lucky my mum and dad didn't have a lot of cash but golf was affordable enough to join a great golf club and I had an opportunity to play a great game."
‘A little elitist'
Asked if the UAE could model itself on the Northern Irish case study for golfing success, McDowell said: "The UAE hasn't got the talent because it hasn't got the kids playing the game. I don't know much about golf in the UAE but it strikes me as probably still a little elitist. You need a few quid to play the game.
"There's not a lot of courses and its still quite expensive to play. It's not very expensive to kick a ball around a field but to join a golf club its not as accessible for them, so that will come."