It came as no surprise to see Ian Poulter selected by European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington as one of his three Captain’s Picks last week. The Englishman, who is nicknamed the ‘Postman’ because he always delivers, is a veteran of the biennial tournament and transforms into a different beast when clad in the continent’s blue and gold.
One man who knows all about this is the UAE’s No.1 golfer Ahmad Skaik. The Emirati has been mentored by Poulter since the start of 2020 thanks to a mentorship programme set up by DP World and the Emirates Golf Federation.
Skaik has had numerous calls with the 12-time European Tour winner as well as a face-to-face coaching session when they were both in Dubai ahead of the DP World Tour Championship.
Earlier this year the duo met up again at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which was Skaik’s second start at the Rolex Series event, with Poulter discussing tactics on improving his skills and confidence.
“I’ve learnt so many things from Ian,” said Skaik. “I always watched him on TV growing up so to get the chance to be mentored by him is a dream come true. I speak to him from time to time to let him know what I’ve been working on and he gives me tips on how to structure my practice sessions or to change the way I’m doing things to get better results.
“He has also helped out with my preparation for my bigger events by giving me advice on how to deal with nerves and pressure and not let that affect me during the build-up to tournament week.”
Some of those conversations have inevitably involved talk of the Ryder Cup with Poulter widely known for his love of golf’s greatest contest. He boasts an impressive record of just six losses from 22 matches while remaining undefeated in the singles. Among those he’s beaten on Sunday: Dustin Johnson in 2018, current US captain Steve Stricker (2008) and Matt Kuchar (2010).
“I think Ian is an essential addition to the team and he will be great at Whistling Straits,” said Skaik. “The Ryder Cup isn’t the same without him because of the energy he brings to the team and the passion he shows — he just has to be there.
“Since 2010, the European team have won every edition aside from 2016 when Ian had to miss out due to injury, I think that shows how much of an impact he has on the team. He pumps up all the players and will give this year’s rookies a load of motivation and support.
“Golf is an individual game and the Ryder Cup is probably the only event where he is not playing for himself and playing as part of a team. I spoke to him about this before and when he puts on that jersey with the European Logo on his chest, it just makes him feel like a different person because he is playing for something a lot bigger than he is.
“The event brings out a different animal in him and it’s certainly inspirational to see. I wish him all the best once again and hope Europe can bring the cup home.”
Poulter isn’t the only one with a big event on the horizon. Skaik also has his eyes set on capturing a piece of silverware at the prestigious Asia Pacific Amateur Championship, which will be held in the UAE for the first time when Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club welcomes the region’s best amateur golfers from November 3-6.
“My game is trending in the right direction right now,” he said. “It was a tough summer for me because I’ve had a wrist injury for the last six months. I played with it towards the end of the season before taking two months off to let it heal properly. I then had to have surgery on my foot due to an ingrown nail which set me back around three more weeks but I’m back now and trying my best to practice to prepare for the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship. Hopefully we’ll see the UAE flag rising high at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.”