31 Mar 2023

Ahmad Skaik all set for Abu Dhabi Challenge Tour double-header

Next month, the Challenge Tour returns to the UAE for the first time in five years with back-to-back events in Abu Dhabi showcasing a plethora of the game’s next generation of talent along with a host of UAE Nationals bidding to shine on the big stage.

The two events, the Abu Dhabi Challenge at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and the UAE Challenge at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, are part of the European Tour group’s long-term partnership with the Emirates Golf Federation, which aims to develop golf in the United Arab Emirates for at least the next decade.

Thirty spots in each of those tournaments will be allocated to the EGF to help create playing opportunities and provide a pathway for Emirati golfers. It’s worth noting that the EGF can also trade these places with other federations across the world to give their players an opportunity to play in Challenge Tour events overseas.

Although the full field has not yet been confirmed, one man who will definitely be playing is the UAE’s No.1 golfer Ahmad Skaik, who recently returned from a year-long injury to successfully defend his Presidents Cup crown.

Skaik, who plans to turn professional in the future, will be aiming to emulate the form that saw him play his way into the history books just four months before injuring a disc in his lower back while deadlifting.

The UAE national fired the lowest DP World Tour round by an Emirati on the opening day of the 2021 AVIV Dubai Championship with an impressive four under par 68 on the Fire course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. It was the second successive week the youngster had made the headlines after his heroics at the previous week’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where he became only the second Emirati to make the cut.

We caught up with Skaik ahead of the Challenge Tour double-header to find out where his game is at after the long lay-off and how important these events will be in his deveolpment.

How has the last year been for you with the injury?

The last 12 months have been very tough and I still get pain now but it’s much better than it was. I’ve been unable to play golf as much as I’d like or hit as many shots as I normally would when practicing – I’m still doing physio once a week and gym work four times a week to get back to where I was before my injury.

You successfully defended your Presidents Cup crown following an 18-hole play-off after a scoring error. How did it feel to get back to winning ways on your first start back after injury?

Golf is a crazy sport, and you must be able to adapt to certain things to overcome the hurdles that the sport throws at you. That weekend was a great example of that. It was great to be back on the course full-time. I wanted to use the Championship to show everyone that I’m healthy again and ready for the rest of the year, I think I did that.

You’ve played a few events since that victory, including the GCC Championship – where do you feel your game is at heading into this Challenge Tour double-header?

My game is looking good. I’ve put in a lot of work, it’s obviously tough to transition to tournament golf as I haven’t played in such a long time but I’ve performed a lot better than expected, especially at the GCC Championship where I won a silver medal. I’m happy with where my game is and hopefully I can keep getting better leading up to the Challenge Tour events.

How excited are you to be playing with the stars of tomorrow on the Challenge Tour?

I’m very excited to get out there and play. I’ve obviously played at Abu Dhabi Golf Club many times and during the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they will set the course up for a Challenge Tour event. Playing in tournaments like this will help my game, especially coming back from injury. It gives me vital experience of playing in bigger events and under pressure which then helps me deal with pressure in some of the smaller events.

Have you set yourself any goals for the two events?

I’ve not set any goals for the events just yet. During Ramadan it’s tough to practice every day and stay on top of it and the events are just after Ramadan finishes so I would have liked to have a bit more time. I haven’t played in big events in over a year so I need to be realistic with what I’m setting. Having said that, I also need to set big goals and I believe I can achieve them. Making the cut and playing well in the third and fourth round would be a step in the right direction.

How important is the deal between the EGF and the DP World Tour in helping UAE Nationals play on the big stage?

The deal between the EGF and the DP World Tour is very important and vital for the game out here. It opens so many doors for us and gives us the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the world. It’s definitely helped golf in the UAE take a step forward and evolve as a country for golf.

What does your schedule look like for the rest of the year?

There’s a few more Challenge Tour events that I will be playing and hopefully some DP World Tour tournaments. I’ll also be playing some amateur events in Europe and hopefully the States, so it’s looking like a busy schedule and one I’m really looking forward to after doing nothing for almost a year!

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