Some of the students in the Elite Programme at Emirates Golf Club
Some of the students in the Elite Programme at Emirates Golf Club. The academy’s curriculum includes a competition where students earn Order of Merit points that build up over the course of the season. Image Credit: Dubai Golf

Dubai: If you wait around at Emirates Golf Club on a Tuesday morning, chances are you’ll see a group of students being dropped off for an hour of practice before they head off to school. A quick glance down the driving range and you will see one person clipping a few balls — or ‘nuggets,’ as he likes to call them — into the Dubai sunrise.

Stephen Deane has had an unorthodox but inspirational journey within the game of golf. A decorated hockey player for Northern Ireland, injury put his dreams to an abrupt close. Still, the then 17-year-old student picked up a different kind of ball game. Only this one involved a club, not a stick.

As the 10 or so students warm up, Deane is talking them through today’s agenda. Tuesday mornings are typically supervised practice. Each of his students is working on a specific part of their game, and during this hour, he lets them loose under his watchful eye.

I have an obligation to grow the game and develop my students.

- Stephen Deane | Coach, Emirates Golf Club Elite Programme

“Being a golf professional, I have an obligation to grow the game and develop my students.” Deane says in an exclusive chat with Gulf News, referring to the Elite Programme of Emirates Golf Club.

If he sees something, he says it. Otherwise, he knows that these are valuable routines that his students are stealing from the day — mostly because he knows other schoolkids haven’t even woken up yet.

“With young talents, you have to show them that you care about them. Ever since I started this programme, I’ve wanted to pass my knowledge on. Whether they pursue golf at a higher level, that’s another question. But as long as I can help them lead happy lives, I’d be happy. You do that by showing them you care about them as humans, and not just students.”

The Tuesday morning session is just one out of six different sessions the Elite programme does at Emirates Golf Club every week. On Mondays, they train with biomechanics specialist, Jonathan Craddock. On Wednesday mornings, the squad is in the gym with Richard Dunsby. Every Thursday evening, after school, the Elites play a nine-hole competition where they earn Order of Merit points that build up over the course of the season and on Saturdays, Alastair Brown works on their short game.

“Our students do their drills every day. Being part of the Peter Cowen system, we’ve helped them understand how a few minutes every day, even without a club, can help them make significant progress.”

Over the course of the last few years, Deane has been able to develop a breed of golfers that are able to take their game to the next level. Graduates of this programme, like Kavita Sehmi, have gone on to play on the Ladies European Tour here, international junior tournaments and high-level Division 1 golf programmes in America.

Just recently, Deane got back from a weeklong training trip with his students. On a trip to Los Angeles, the entire group trained, competed, saw the sights, and even met and spoke with college golf coaches.

“The Elites programme has been a pioneer in the sense that we took our students out to Asia as well as Los Angeles. Our kids didn’t just play, but they also competed. We had a win, a bunch of top-three finishes, and learnt some really good things.”

“Now, top college golf coaches from California want to visit us and learn more about our students — it’s an exciting time, we have big things lined up for next season, including a trip to Florida in the winter. We held our own against some of the best competition that Southern California had to offer us, and that’s a testament to the work our kids put in this past season.”

“A lot of this is thanks to swissglobal, who sponsor our programme and make this extremely cost-efficient for the next wave of golfing talent coming out of this country. Without their support, this trip would not have been possible,” he added.

— The writer is an intern with Gulf News