Dubai: The UAE's national golf team is aiming to top last year's second place finish when it competes in the Arab Golf Championships at the Citrus Golf Course in Hammamet, Tunisia between October 8 and 10.
UAE, the 2007 Arab Junior champions, finished as runners-up to Bahrain with a painstakingly close gross score of 235 in the 2009 Arab Championships at Al Hamra Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah.
But now Saeed Malek, Khalid Yousuf, Abdullah and Ahmad Al Musharrakh are all determined to step up the pace to achieve top regional honours.
Team manager Khalid Mubarak said: "What happened last year was a great learning curve and now the boys know what to expect from the championship — the event is all about maintaining consistency and clicking as a unit".
"Everyone will have to chip in with a good score if we aim to do well in Tunisia."
"Bahrain will be the team to beat, but we're not taking anyone lightly," Mubarak said.
"The standard of golf has improved in the region and we have to be at our best in all matches. The boys are training pretty hard and I'm sure we will return home with something to cheer about."
Ahmad Al Musharrakh, who plays with the lowest handicap achieved by an Emirati (plus four), will be the most practised member of team UAE having already stretched his legs at the 54-hole Egyptian Open qualifier at Mirage City Golf Club between September 30 and October 2.
Coach Chris Vallendar quipped: "I'd be disappointed if we don't make a top three finish. We have a better chance now than we did last year — our teams have improved considerably," Vallendar said.
"It's a cliche to say we going out to win; Lebanon, Tunisia, Saudi, Egypt and Bahrain will all aim for success, but we are really confident we'll do well."
Meanwhile coaches Chris Vallendar and Jason Frogatt are also working hard with the junior and ladies' UAE outfit. The juniors consist of Hassan Al Musharrakh, Suhail and Faisal Al Marzouqi; while the ladies pairing of Eida Al Muhairbi and Rabab Al Haj form the first UAE ladies' national team to compete internationally.
Vallendar said: "It's an exciting time for ladies golf".
"Obviously theyl lack international experience this being their debut, but we [the UAE] can now say we've arrived on the ladies' international scene," Vallendar said.
"Eida and Rabab will attract more ladies and young girls into the game. They are confident and aim for a respectable finish — but we can't seriously expect a win from them."
Of the junior side Vallendar added: "Nine-handicapper Faisal is coming back from injury and finding his form again, his brother Suhail is a five-handicapper and Hassan is in very good individual shape — he's possibly the top junior in the region. There's a good chance of a medal here too but there are three or four other teams who could beat us to it."
Expectant of a good showing in both men's senior and junior levels, Vallendar admitted conditions in Tunisia could still stand between the UAE and a title haul, where mountainous terrain, wind, and harder fairways might prove to be a distinct disadvantage to the UAE.