Joshua Grenville-Wood is pictured with Akram Skaik, Director General Emirates Golf Federation and Freddie Schmeisser Head of Championships DP World Tour Middle East
Joshua Grenville-Wood is pictured with Akram Skaik, Director General Emirates Golf Federation and Freddie Schmeisser Head of Championships DP World Tour Middle East Image Credit: Supplied

The UAE’s Joshua Grenville-Wood and Ahmad Skaik are set to go head-to-head with some of the world’s top rising stars when the Challenge Tour descends upon the capital for an enticing two-week double header later this month.

Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club makes its Challenge Tour debut as host venue of the Abu Dhabi Challenge from April 18-21 before Saadiyat Beach Golf Club provides the setting for the UAE Challenge from April 25-28.

“I’m very excited,” said Grenville-Wood who finished tied second at last year’s Abu Dhabi Challenge before going on to post some solid results in DP World Tour events across the Middle East including a tied sixth at last year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and a tied ninth at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship this season.

“It's amazing to see golf booming in the region and more tournaments every year, with a commitment from the DP World Tour and Challenge Tour to keep coming back.

"It's fantastic that we can have two Challenge Tour events here on two great courses. It's really good to see we are able to have these events and help local guys out as well as show off golf in the region.”

The two events are part of the European Tour group’s long-term partnership with the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), which aims to develop golf in the United Arab Emirates for at least the next decade.

Thirty spots in each tournament will be allocated to the EGF to help create playing opportunities and provide a pathway for UAE golfers. As well as giving local players key experience of playing elite level tournaments in Abu Dhabi, the EGF are able to swap some of their allocation with other international federations to allow UAE players to compete in other Challenge Tour events around the world.

One of the players to benefit from these additional opportunities last year was the UAE’s No.1 amateur, Skaik, who gained entry into four Challenge Tour events across Spain, Italy and France last year and he believes the EGF’s partnership with the European Tour group has significantly accelerated his development as he strives towards his goal of becoming a full-time tour pro.

“It’s always great to play in such big events,” he said. “The dream is to play on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour and the Challenge Tour is very close to that level so to be able to play events like these is a very good opportunity for all the national players here.

“To be able to have the experience of playing against some of the best players in the world so we can learn from them is amazing. The course set up for events like these is also different to what we’re used to so we get to see the players prepare for these events, week in week out, so that we can add that to our games as well.

“All the boys are excited to get going – the ones who played last year and the ones who are playing for the first time. We’re all very excited and ready for it.

“I played in six Challenge Tour events last year including the two in Abu Dhabi. It was tough, it wasn’t easy. The courses that I played in Europe were different – very tight so I realised that it’s not about just hitting the ball as far as possible, you have to be very accurate and very smart on some courses. Some holes you’ll take an iron or a rescue wood off the tee and it’s better to leave yourself a six iron into the green rather than a nine iron where you risk hitting it out of bounds off the tee. So, it’s all of these things I’ve learned and I’m putting them into my game.”

As well as being granted spots in other Challenge Tour events, the EGF can also access spots in Ladies European Tour events for the country’s leading female talents.

His Excellency General Abdullah Al Hashmi, Vice Chairman, Emirates Golf Federation, said: “Using the Challenge Tour events by exchanging spots between other federations and events give the UAE National Team players a huge advantage, while they gain experience and World Ranking points for both amateurs and professionals.

“We are doing this for both male and female players. In addition, it allows the EGF to collaborate with other key stakeholders within the golf ecosystem. The UAE Challenge Tour events are extremely popular and very difficult to get into. This gives these events more value, and better exposure for everyone participating. We look forward to seeing how our players perform and how these events continues to develop the sport at an elite level.”

Freddie Schmeisser, Head of Championships, DP World Tour Middle East, added:

“It’s a pleasure to have the Challenge Tour back and these two events are a fantastic addition to the European Tour group’s suite of events in the region. We are grateful for the continued support of the Emirates Golf Federation, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Arena, Phoenix Capital and Al Laith.”

“We’re delighted to be able to facilitate elite level playing opportunities for UAE based players both at home and abroad as part of our long-term partnership with the Emirates Golf Federation aimed at growing the game of golf in this country at all levels.”