Gulf News: Why are you here in Dubai on this visit?
Claude: I come over once a year to see Jamie McConnell, the Director of Instruction at the CH3 Performance Golf Academy and our team of coaches at The Els Club and it is a great opportunity to spend time with them, watch them teach and I also give lessons and they sit in on these. I speak to Jamie almost every day from my base in Jupiter, Florida in the US or when I am travelling. They have all done an excellent job and the Academy is doing great.
Gulf News: Tell us about your history in Dubai.
Claude: I moved here in 2008 from Los Angeles, and we opened CH3 in 2009. When I left Dubai after three years Justin Parsons took over. I am proud of how all our Pros have progressed. Justin is now at Sea Island, Georgia in the US, coaching at least seven players on the PGA Tour and LIV Tour: Branden Grace, Harris English, Charl Schwartzel, Brian Harman, Louis Oosthuizen and so many more. Others who have worked here with us include Richard Sheridan who went to Asia, and is now Director of Instruction at The Olympic Club, San Francisco.
Stephen Sweeney, another of our former coaches under Justin and Wayne Johnson, when they were at the Montgomerie Golf Club, is now one of the top putting instructors on the PGA Tour, and has just linked up with Collin Morikawa as well as Joaquin Niemann.
I coached Ernie Els for five years and when we catch-up on our travels we always talk about how the CH3 and The Els Club is doing. When you do not live here and when your name is on the business, you have additional responsibilities. I always love coming to Dubai, it feels like a second home. If my global work schedule permitted, I would love to spend four or five months here every year.
Gulf News: How has Dubai and the CH3 Academy Developed over the years?
Claude: As a visitor to Dubai, it is truly an unbelievable place. When you live in Dubai you do not realise how impressive a place it is. The first time I came was in around 2022 and to see the scope and how it has developed is mind blowing. The access to sport and especially golf for youngsters in Dubai is very special.
I am especially proud that we have currently almost 200 kids on our Junior Programme at CH3. We have a wall at the gym at the Academy set up by Jamie, with all the US College logos that our students, almost 20 of them, have progressed to from CH3: Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, University of Tennessee and Florida. These are amongst the best and biggest College athletic programmes in the US.
We have no genuine UAE wide junior golf tours as happens in the US so that is hugely impressive. We have so many success stories from CH3. A particularly impressive story is UAE National Faye Alblooshi, a 15 year-old girl living in Sharjah. Last year she was scoring over 100, now a year later she is shooting in the 70’s. Her progress has been dramatic.
My job and our job is to provide a pathway for golfers to go as far as they want to in golf. We have created a team ethic at CH3 amongst our students that I am excited to report is developing well, resulting in a healthy competitive culture that drives hard work and advancement. I have this mantra, that has been passed down to me from my father and grandfather, who won the 1948 Masters is: ‘Trying to grow the game, one junior at a time!’
Gulf News: Thank you Claude for your time and keep up the good work.