Another of Dubai’s hottest golf prospects is in the spotlight next week with Welsh ace Toby Bishop representing his country in the prestigious Home Internationals at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, from 4-6 August.
The 17-year-old, who is coached at the Claude Harmon III Performance Golf Academy in Dubai, has been selected for the annual series of matches for the second time, where his Welsh boys squad will compete against teams from England, Ireland and Scotland in a round-robin format over three days of golf.
The youngster is no stranger to the Welsh team after first joining the Aspire Performance Squad in 2017 before advancing to the High Performance Squad two years later. That has seen him play in numerous elite events for his country including the Quadrangular Wales v England match while also being crowned Welsh Boys Strokeplay Champion after winning the U18’s Strokeplay in 2019.
“I found out I had been selected to play in the Home Internationals last week, alongside seven other players to make up the eight-man squad, and six female competitors to complete the Welsh team,” said Bishop, who won the Men’s Matchplay at Trump in May.
“The selection process is conducted by a team of selectors and Wales Golf staff, who make their decision based off current form on the course as well as attitude and conduct that the player showcases at all times. Wales Golf try not only to bring their best team of golfers to every event, but also a group of role models who embody the Wales Golf ethics.
“It has always been a big ambition of mine to represent the Welsh National team, so to be selected to compete at my second Home Internationals in a row fills me with great pride.”
Preparation for the event has been far from ideal for Bishop with the UAE currently on the UK’s red list of countries. This meant 10 days quarantine in a hotel room on arrival but Bishop managed to stay active despite the limitations of being surrounded by four walls.
“I’m currently staying with my grandparents in England and practising at my local club in Studley Wood, but upon arrival in the UK I had to complete the 10-day quarantine in a designated hotel, where I used resistance bands and body weight exercises to stay mobile during my stay,” he said.
“However, I struggled to find form once being released and didn’t play my best golf in my first event of the summer. Despite the poor golf I felt I produced in the first week of back playing, I have since got back into my rhythm and am feeling very confident heading into the competition at Woodhall Spa.”
Confidence and his ‘A’ game will be a must in the Home Internationals, when he takes on some of the finest amateur golfers the UK has to offer. One of those faces will be all too familiar for Bishop with good friend and Dubai-born ace Josh Hill representing England over the Hotchkin and Bracken courses.
“Josh and I have been best friends ever since I started playing golf in Dubai,” he said. “Playing at Trump International Golf Club together and going to the same primary school, allowed us to see each other grow as golfers and people the whole way.
“We are always there to support each other, and love the competitive edge our friendship brings to practice, being able to create pressure situations outside of tournament play. We are also very good friends with Arjun and Natali Gupta, who play at Trump International Golf Club with Josh and myself, and take lessons with Jamie McConnell at the Claude Harmon III Academy, which allows us to practise and play together every day.
“I managed to get a round with Josh just last week, which was a great way to catch up and hear about his summer so far, as well as have a good time before we compete at the Home Internationals for our own respected nations.”
When I spoke to Hill last week he was quick to credit the golf scene in the UAE for making him the player he is today. Bishop was just as thankful for the opportunities Dubai has given him to advance his game to the next level and gave kudos to two Emirati players, who he believes are pioneers for the game in the region.
“Dubai has been a great environment for me to develop as a golfer over the past 12 years,” he said. “The facilities such as the Claude Harmon III Academy, where I am coached by head coach Jamie McConnell, and Trump International, Dubai, provide me with top class facilities all year round, and constantly support of my golfing journey.
“Just this past season, I won the UAE Scratch League with the rest of the team at Trump, which was a great way to finish the season carrying forwards confidence and momentum into this summer.
“The golf scene in Dubai has grown massively since my time in the country, with the likes of fellow friends and Emirati golfers Ahmad Skaik and Khalid Yousef, acting as pioneers for the game in the region, and growing the interest from the youth starting up in the game of golf.
“As a result of my location in Dubai and the Middle East, I was presented with the opportunity to the play on the MENA Tour for two seasons, giving me experience of life as a pro golfer. Competing against a top standard field of players has given me the chance to learn from them during tournament play and practice sessions.”
The Home Internationals will be the last event for Bishop this summer as he turns his attentions to spending time with family back home after the pandemic put a stop to that. Next year he’ll be part of another family when he joins the ‘Gators’ at the University of Florida after being offered a scholarship and he’ll get a taste of campus life when he makes an official visit in October.
“Signing for the University of Florida has been the highlight of my golfing career so far,” he said. “For all the hard work and time spent competing, practicing, doing school work, gym work and the sacrifices my family have made, to be offered a scholarship to my dream college is something I am extremely grateful to Coach Deacon and Coach Leon for giving me that opportunity.
“Although I can’t wait to join the team in 2022, my coach, Jamie and I work to stay in the present, focusing on the process that we can control, rather than looking at outcomes, to ensure I am as prepared as I possibly can be for my arrival at the University of Florida, to do my best to help my team win a National Championship.”
It’s clear Bishop is a wise head on young shoulders, who is taking his golfing journey one step at a time in a bid to achieve his career goals. Like any youngster he dreams of winning Majors and being crowned the No. 1 golfer on the planet, but he also wants to set the standard on the attitude of a golfer on and off the course and inspire the next generation of stars.
“In terms of my future in this game, I am striving to be the best player in the world, and join the prestigious list of players to win the Grand Slam,” he said. “I want to continue to represent the Welsh flag and Gator logo throughout my career, and not only showcase my best golf, but an exemplar attitude and way of conducting myself on and off the golf course to help inspire the younger generation.”