Aref Al Awani, Secretary General of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Keith Pelley, CEO of the DP World Tour, Thomas Pieters, winner of last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation and General Abdullah Alhashmi, Vice-Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation.
Aref Al Awani, Secretary General of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Keith Pelley, CEO of the DP World Tour, Thomas Pieters, winner of last week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation and General Abdullah Alhashmi, Vice-Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation. Image Credit: Supplied

Gulf News caught up With General Abdullah Alhashmi, new Vice-Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation, to talk about vision and role of EGF.

We understand that you are a keen golfer off an 8 handicap at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, how have you got involved with the EGF?

I was recently invited to meet the officials of UAE General Authority of Sports in their offices in Dubai. I had a meeting with Dr Ahmed Hamid Belhoul Al Falasi, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Authority of Sports, and he invited me to be the Vice-Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation under the Chairmanship of Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi. He then shared the ‘Vision 2030’ for all of sport in the UAE. Ahmed informed me what they are requiring of the EGF. The message from the General Authority was very clear: How we can improve golf in the UAE collectively, through overall direction and support from the senior leadership of the UAE including Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed and the General Authority of Sports? The council is responsible for setting the ecosystem, plans, programmes, systems, and regulations to ensure the proper organisation, revitalisation and the development of the sports sector in the UAE, including golf, and to work on proposing legislation for the organising of sport, including golf, in the UAE. With golf being an individual sport, rather than a team sport, the UAE can make a significant difference with individuals making a mark in golf, not just in the UAE. In the medium term, the objective is to create more elite golfers who can represent the country: locally, regionally and internationally with the ultimate goal for UAE amateur golfers to play in the Olympics. The General Authority of Sports will work with Sheikh Fahim and myself, and whatever support the EGF needs, they will encourage it. The EGF’s mandate is to grow the game and the EGF is the recognised governing body for all of golf in the UAE. This Federal Government directive has now been reinforced with our new board of directors, many of whom are directly and indirectly involved in the UAE golf industry. It has to start at the top with the vision, mission and objectives. These documents are being finalised in-house and will be shared and published with the golf clubs, the UAE golf industry and all golfers very soon.

What are the immediate plans for the EGF?

We are now arranging EGF meetings with all the different entities and stakeholders in the UAE golf industry. The board of directors is determined to be very active and high profile with all its activities in the UAE and wider afield. All board members will have designated roles. The media is very important to the EGF and golf, on both the English and Arabic media platforms with our EGF message. The Federal government has given us powers to make decisions within the UAE golf industry.

Who are you meeting?

We have met with Danny Van Otterdijk, Chief Communications Officer of Group Communications — DP World, and we have a shared Vision between the EGF and DP World. We do not want just the best players in the world of golf coming to play in tournaments in the UAE. We need the industry and all our stakeholders to all work together and support our UAE Nationals as well as our expat golfers. We also met with Falcon and Associates, promoters of the Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai Moonlight Classic. We are expanding our local sanctioning partnership with Falcon as well as connecting Falcon with Abu Dhabi Sports Council in a collaborative UAE initiative. On the sidelines of the recent Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, and he informed the EGF that ADSC wants to continue to develop the youth golf programme for golf in Abu Dhabi with the EGF, and the Future Falcon’s Programme. It was agreed that the Future Falcons Programmes will now be placed under EGF management, with the EGF responsible for activation and everything connected with this project. We also met Tom Phillips, the Head of the DP World Tour in the Middle East, and he agreed through the new DP World Tour global platform that they will provide enhanced playing opportunities for UAE Nationals, Arab Nationals and UAE Residents all over the world. Our meetings with the UAE Special Olympics Committee were very productive and we will soon align golf in Abu Dhabi and the Special Olympics with the EGF partnership with the EDGA (European Disabled Golfers Association), to share ideas, common goals and playing opportunities: locally, regionally and internationally.

Summarise the last few weeks for you General, now you are onboard as the Vice-Chairman of the EGF.

It has been very busy meeting lots of people. The UAE golf industry must now work much closer together moving forward. I am excited about the future of golf in the UAE, supporting both UAE nationals and expats. We are going to hit the ground running. We also met Troon International, to make it clear that they were aware of the new EGF model clear and get them on board along with their Troon managed golf clubs with the EGF Vision. All golf clubs in the UAE must now work closer together and the EGF will support them and they will support us. We need to have everyone aligned with our vision, whether it is regarding handicaps, corporate golf days, best green fee rates for EGF members, golf coaching consistencies, certification of all members of the UAE golf industry and encouraging inclusive golf. Finally, the UAE and EGF are very proud to be hosting four DP World Tour events in a row in our country and six in total during the year, including the DP World Tour Championship and the traditional week before. From what I have heard, this has never happened in the history of the world of golf when you can drive from Abu Dhabi to Ras Al Khaimah in just 120 minutes maximum, within which the UAE is hosting these six events in 2022. We are very proud of what we have delivered as a nation to date: a safe, healthy and friendly environment, great golf facilities, a warm welcome and stunning weather throughout the season. Historically, we have invested in golf since the late 1980s. Here we are 35 years later and we have done a lot so far, but there is so much more to be done in a collaborative approach under the overarching arm of the Emirates Golf Federation.