Ismail Sharif with Tiger Woods during the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic Pro-Am at the Emirates Golf Club. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The ‘Father’ of the game in the UAE, Ismail Sharif began playing golf in Dubai in the early 1990s.

He has always been at the forefront of UAE golf, as a player and now in his role as managing director of Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Sharif’s relationship with golf did not have a particularly happy start. “I went to the driving range at Emirates Golf Club on December 2, 1992 — UAE National Day,” he said. “A Japanese friend encouraged me to come to Emirates Golf Club, where he was a member, and he gave me a club but we could both soon see I was very uncomfortable as it was a right-handed club and I’m left-handed.

“We both went to the clubhouse in search of some appropriate equipment. I said I needed a stick, I didn’t even know what it, a club, was called then, but the lady there said I could not have one as I was not a member.

“I swore then that I was going to learn the game. Today I want to find that lady and thank her because without her I would not have become a golfer.”

Determined to take up the game played by expats, Sharif joined Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. “The key to my golf in those days is that I spent the first six months just on the range and par 3 course,” Sharif explained. “I hit over 2,000 balls some days. People said I was crazy but I was soon beating the pros on the par 3, scoring two and three under.”

Sharif then progressed to gaining a golf handicap of 24, then 18 and then 14 and was by then playing in the Pro-Ams of the Dubai Desert Classic and winning them with the UAE national team.

Sharif has always had a passion for sport, having historically been part of the Armed Forces, playing goalkeeper in football teams as well as pistol shooting at a decent level. Golf took over and Sharif won a gold medal at the Law Enforcement Olympics in 1998.

During his golfing career Sharif has won seven national championships, represented the UAE national team in international events as well as numerous corporate golf and related honours.

In 2004 Sharif turned professional with the aim of guiding young Emiratis into golf for both playing the game and with careers in the business of golf around a thriving industry.

Following injury and a shoulder operation Sharif is now back at the game he loves. In his current role Sharif is at the helm of Jumeirah Golf Estates, the host venue of the DP World Tour Championship — the season-ending event on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Sharif is a special host at Jumeirah Golf Estates for players, coaches, media, VIPs and guests like no other and counts the likes of Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn, Mark O’Meara and the current world No. 1 coach Peter Cowen (who has one of his Peter Cowen Dubai Academies at Jumeirah Golf Estates) as close friends.

Ismail has come a long way in golf since those early days, as has golf in Dubai, the UAE and the region, with Sharif playing a pivotal role in making it all happen.