Ahmad Skaik
Ahmad Skaik Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

It has been quite a year for UAE golf’s poster boy and No. 1 Ahmad Skaik — including a certain moment in the global spotlight on the European Tour.

Now the 24-year-old has set his sights on bigger things in 2022, including finishing his education at the American University in Dubai and exploring the possibility of turning professional.

During a whirlwind 2021, Skaik has surged into prominence thanks to appearances as the Asian-Pacific Amateur Championship and an impressive third-place bronze medal at the recent Arab Golf Championship. However, it was an astonishing first round at the Aviv Dubai Championship on the Fire Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November that really made people sit up and take notice.

“I shot a 68 in the first round and it was amazing to see my name at the top of the leaderboard alongside all there European Tour big names,” Skaik told Gulf News in an exclusive chat at Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. “I was joint-leader after 13 holes and I was thinking: ‘If I can get four-under today that would be the biggest thing I have ever done out on the course.’ Of course, the nerves crept in and I three-putted on the 14th. But I managed to hold it together and to be in the top 20 or so was just brilliant.”

Ahmad Skaik
Ahmad Skaik Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Looking ahead, Skaik has his plans mapped out for the immediate future. With the DP World Tour Rolex Series events — the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and Dubai Desert Classic — coming up before the inaugural Ras Al Khaimah Championship, the Emirati is looking to balance study and competition before considering turning pro.

“I have one semester left at AUD, then I plan to play for around six months or more before looking at going professional,” he said. “With three big DP World Tour events just around the corner, I am hoping to play at least two of them and we are exploring invitations. It is always great to play here in the UAE and there is no better stage than at these big events when all the big names are in town — just like the experience I had at the Aviv last month.”

Skaik admitted it was sometimes tough when he was coming through the ranks in the UAE as some of his seniors were reluctant to take the plunge and the next step in the world of golf and try to make an impact on the global stage. Thankfully, Skaik found a willing and able mentor in Ryder Cup star and DP World Ambassador Ian Poulter.

“It was tough to find inspiration as a lot of my elders in the game in the UAE were never really considering taking their game further,” he said. “I would ask them about turning professional and they would just laugh. So it was tough to keep up the positivity and momentum to keep pushing myself forward to where I have arrived now.

“Ian helped me a lot as he would always answer my calls and has been a great ear. He always gives me great advice about how to handle my nerves, prepare for tournaments and handle the pressure.”

Ahmad Skaik
Ahmad Skaik Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

While Skaik has embraced the facilities available to him in the UAE — where state-of-the-art technology, equipment and ranges are available, such as at the Claude Harmon III Academy at The Els Club where he trains — he knows he will need to travel more to gain experience, and face up to the elements in chillier places than the UAE.

“I have not been to too many destinations abroad as yet to sample the facilities, but I am pretty sure the UAE has some of the best in the world. I have no doubt that the improvement of the quality of facilities in the UAE over the past 10 years have helped me to reach the next level where others have not made it before.

“While I cannot wait to get out and play across the globe, I still need to get used to the elements.

“The weather takes some getting used to. In Cairo at the Arab Golf Championship it was freezing and the early starts were really tough as it is a damp cold that gets right into your bones. We are lucky with the weather here in the UAE, and I guess I will have to get used to playing in other conditions.

“I played a tournament in Ireland and it was very cold and raining. I was literally shaking on the first tee, thinking: ‘Do not top it. Do not top it.’ Thankfully I got it away and once we were moving it got better.

“What keeps me going in moments like that is my ambition to prove that players from this region can compete with the best and show the next generation that anything is possible if you apply yourself.”

As 2022 unfolds, Skaik will get moving in a whole new direction, and maybe he can truly put the UAE flag on the golfing map.