The UAE PGA professionals will once again go head-to-head against the Emirates Golf Federation amateurs in what promises to be a great weekend of golfing action at the 20th edition of the Dubai Golf Trophy this weekend. The Amateur Team have won the hotly anticipated event for the last three years and will be targeting more glory despite missing some star names including Rayhan Thomas and Josh Hill. We sat down with Amateur Team Captain Craig Vance to get his thoughts on his squad and what it means to represent the amateur circuit in the UAE.
WWG: You’ll be captaining the EGF Amateur Team this weekend at the Dubai Golf Trophy. How proud are you to be leading the local amateurs?
Craig Vance: Last year I was Vice Captain to Max Burrow which was huge honour for me but to step up and be Captain for the 20th edition of the Dubai Golf Trophy puts the icing on the cake. I can’t wait to represent the amateur circuit in the UAE. We’ve got a good team behind us and hopefully we can make it four wins in a row.
WWG: You’re coming into the event on some good form after sealing a wire-to-wire victory at Trump International’s Men’s Open. How are you feeling with your game?
CV: That seems like a long time ago now! I’m hitting the ball quite well and have a good track record at the Dubai Golf Trophy so hopefully that will continue with the added pressure of being Captain and trying to support the rest of the team.
WWG: You’ll be without young stars Josh Hill and Arjun Gupta as well as Dubai golf sensation Rayhan Thomas this year. How much of a big miss will they be to the team?
CV: They will obviously be missed but we’ve got a lot of depth in the team especially with Toby Bishop and Bradley Mogire stepping up in the last 12 months. Toby actually won the Men’s Open at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club at the start of the year and that field included Rayhan and Josh so we’ve got some great youngsters coming through and that shows the quality of the teaching that we have in the UAE right now.
WWG: Along with Bradley who played at the European Tour’s Magical Kenyan Open earlier this year, you’ve also got Max Burrow in the squad who featured at the Oman Open. How strong is the team looking despite missing some keys names?
CV: Both players are on a fantastic run of form and have a wealth of experience in the Dubai Golf Trophy which is vital. We’ve also got Mike Mezei who is a great player, Bilbo Perrot who has represented his country, Steve Kelbrick who tore up the EGF Order of Merit and myself who has played county golf over the years. As I said we have plenty of strength in depth that we probably haven’t had for the last four years.
WWG: How tough is it playing fourball and foursomes in the Dubai Golf Trophy when you don’t play this format as regularly as matchplay?
CV: Fourball and foursome aren’t the nicest formats to play in and can be particularly challenging when your up against seasoned pros who have played these throughout there county careers back in the UK and Europe but we are confident we have a great team to challenge for the title once again.
WWG: What has been the secret to the success of the amateur team in the last three years?
CV: Just the youngsters coming through really. There seems to be more emphasis on playing in the local tournaments to actually get into the Dubai Golf Trophy which is great to see. We’ve been doing a lot to publicise it throughout the year and I’ve been contacting a lot of people over the season to get them to play more events over the season so we could include them in the team.
WWG: How much do the amateurs enjoy competing against the pros especially as some of the players are coached by a few of the pros?
CV: They really enjoy it; it’s what everyone plays for throughout the year. The guys love getting one over the pros and it’s always highly talked about for the rest of the year and we’ve had the bragging rights for the last three! The junior guys get a real kick out of it as they are beating some of the guys that they grew up watching play golf.
WWG: There seems to be a great friendly rivalry in the competition. How well do the teams get on at the event?
CV: There is some great banter between both sets of lads and it’s a really great day. There is live online scoring at the event and the groups can also chat between each other on there and see photos which adds another dynamic to the day. The pros usually take charge of this and they do a really good job of communicating between everybody.
Dubai Golf Trophy teams:
Craig Vance (Captain)
Steven Kelbrick (Vice-captain)
Bayhaan Lakdawala (Captain’s pick)
Mike Mezei (Captain’s pick)
Bilbo Perrot (Captain’s pick)
Zi Ang XU (Willy)
Stephen Loftus (Captain’s pick)
UAE PGA Professionals
Tom Buchanan (Captain)
Luke Plumb (Vice-captain)