GULF NEWS caught up with 25 year-old Sana Tufail, formerly a junior golf star from Abu Dhabi, who dominated the local junior girl’s golf scene, now based in the USA.
Tell us about your golfing history, especially in the UAE?
My last full season in the UAE was in 2014, after which I travelled to the US on a full Golf Scholarship as a 17 year-old. The previous three seasons I won 31 Ladies EGF Order of Merit Events in the UAE including 17 on the trot over two seasons. I started to play in US Junior International Events in that summer. I did well, which resulted in many ‘Full Ride’ offers (full scholarships) from several US Universities. I chose Old Dominion University (ODU) and I played all 37 events over the four years.
How did you take up the game in the UAE and who assisted you in those early days?
My dad would take my brother and myself to the golf range at Abu Dhabi City Golf Club when I was about four years-old. After that, I joined the EGF Junior Golf Program run by Martin Duff back in 2002, who played an enormous part in shaping junior golf in those days, we had all sorts of junior tournaments at all levels all over the UAE.
Where and what are you upto now golf wise and career wise?
I completed my Masters in Speech Language Pathology and Special Education in May 2021. Since then, I have worked in Special Education at New England Center for Children (NECC) Boston US. I am very fortunate to work with children of determination in this development environment, they are my inspiration. After graduating, I moved to Boston Massachusetts and I started to visit the nearby driving range after work. I then played a few more events in the region – managing to secure two runner-up spots in the Francis Ouimet Memorial Invitational and the New England Women’s Amateur Championship, I managed to comfortably secure an LPGA-Epson Tour Ranking to play on Epson Tour events and in Monday Qualifiers for the LPGA.
What tournaments are on your immediate schedule?
I have at least four qualifiers set up between now and mid-June as well as a qualifier in Canada for the LPGA Canadian Open and also a Massachusetts qualifier for the US-Women’s Open. It is a balancing act in taking time off work, planning the travelling and fitting in practice rounds to achieve the best possible outcomes.
Tell us about your work in Special Needs Teaching as well as introducing students to golf?
Currently I am working in a residential Young Adult setting within the New England Center for Children in Boston. The residents have transited from a full-time school setting into young adulthood, and are now in a residential setting where they continue to develop communication skills and speech language programs to reach the best possible outcomes. Some may work at an external location during the day. As part of the development programs I encourage using golf as a vehicle to facilitate enhancing speech and communication skills. It is encouraging to see all of the residents enjoy their golf programs and the intention is to take them to the next comfort level. Eventually, I hope to raise their confidence and standards, eventually playing the course partially or in full. It is going to require patience and time to obtain optimum results. It is imperative to have a formal training in Special Olympic Golf Coaching, currently I am working with the former Special Olympics coach for the New England States in Massachusetts
When were you last in Abu Dhabi?
The pandemic resulted in very limited travel between USA and Abu Dhabi, so effectively from March 2020 until recently, there was very limited travel opportunities. I managed to come for a month during March / April this year. It was wonderful to play golf in great weather on some great courses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I also spent some quality time with my coach Yasin Ali at JA The Resort, Jebel Ali.
What are your career ambitions in golf?
I decided on LPGA Q School last summer on a whim, which worked out. Fortunately, I see a two to three-year up-coming window to see how far I can go in being a Pro golfer, beyond that would be dependent on how much success I achieve during this time and what sponsorship opportunities avail themselves. At some point I will have to go full time as a Pro, to do justice to my game. My current career in Special Education / Speech Pathology keeps me grounded and is a great motivator to perform to the best of my ability.