04 Jun 2024

Kiaan Keeps On Winning – UAE’s Latest Jnr Star

Photography & words by Will Kent

Eight-year-old Kiaan Maharaj has become somewhat of a serial winner at the junior level of the game in Dubai. The young South African has enjoyed an incredible season, winning 10 times. Does he know the secret to playing exceptional golf? We needed to find out.

There’s so much golf happening in the Middle East now that some of the junior events can fall off the radar. In a strange way that’s a positive thing; it just means the local golf scene is thriving at all levels. There’s not enough time in the day to cover everything, which is an incredible statement considering Dubai’s first course opened less than 40 years ago.

With that said, I first heard of this youngster in 2023. I booked a tee time to play golf at The Track, Meydan and I was paired with his dad, Kaveer Maharaj, who I didn’t know at the time. Over the course of 18 holes, we discussed the sport in depth and he spoke of his son’s game, and how well he was playing for his age. I was intrigued. We exchanged numbers, and stayed in touch.

Fast forward to April this year, we caught up again and chatted about the consistency his son had enjoyed throughout the winter months. He’d played in 25 tournaments, had 19 podiums, 10 victories and two series wins… It was time to meet the boy for myself.

“This is more than excellent,” Kiaan told me on the putting green at Trump International when I explained I wanted to interview him and take some photographs. “It’s been a great season for me, and I guess you’re going to ask me my favourite player. I’ll save that for later.”

I walked a couple of holes with Kiaan and his dad, and watched the young lad hit green after green. It was impressive, and I nearly even asked him if he had any tips for me. He had an urgent desire to play quickly, and wanted to hit more than just one tee shot. The craving to keep playing the game was clearly bubbling at all levels despite being just eight.

 

Kiaan and his father Kaveer pictured here at Trump International, Dubai

His golfing journey actually began when he was 18 months old back in his home country of South Africa. By the age of three his parents had bought him his first set of clubs as a birthday gift, and he played in his first tournament aged four where he finished second. By age five, he had moved to Dubai and was pursuing the game further with his obvious talent.

“I really like golf because it’s so challenging,” Kiaan said, far too eloquently for his age. “I get to hit a few shots from tricky places. Hitting long drives and also practicing my putting, they’re my favourite part of the game which I started when I was young.

“When I was around 18 months old my dad took me to the driving range for the first time. I just saw the game, and hit a few shots. I snatched his club away, and I really loved it. That’s how I started playing, and my only dream now is to play golf. Actually, my all-time dream is to win the Grand Slam.”

The Grand Slam? I’m not sure many other eight-year-old golfers will even understand what that is!

Not only did he seem wise beyond his years, but his progression is accelerating rapidly. With victories ranging from topping the Trump Junior Order of Merit Series this year, to winning the US Kids Golf UAE event at Al Hamra, he’s making great strides. The youngster even has his first sponsor on board in club manufacturer Golphin UAE.

His parents have also adapted his lifestyle to give him the best chance to maximise his golf, with Kiaan switching to online learning rather than attending a school. This, as Kaveer explained to me, means he isn’t so tired anymore and can put maximum effort into his game. It’s also the similar educational model that the best young amateurs in the States undertake.

“It’s tricky because you have to ensure he is still well socialised and well rounded,” Kaveer explained. “He plays other sport with friends, like rugby because he just loves the Springboks for obvious reasons.

“I don’t think he remembers his life without golf now. He’s obviously had a great season and can play good golf, and the aim is to keep winning, but I also don’t mind him losing either, as the reality in golf is that you lose more than you win. That will keep the fire burning inside of him to get better and improve.”

The junior golf scene is unsurprisingly extremely competitive here in the UAE, as well as in other parts of the world. It’s important to have that exposure playing against the very best young talent out, week in and week out.

 

Kiaan has won 10 times this season

“I try to play every day, but sometimes I am either stuck with school or travelling,” explained Kiaan. “I’ve been trying to play loads, but right now I’m balancing it. I’m very consistent with how much I play. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to go to a golf school like the ones in Thailand and Germany.”

While I’m forever championing the UAE as a great place to play the game, there are obviously other countries with equally as impressive facilities. Thailand, as the youngster mentioned, has over 250 courses across the country and could possibly be a bit friendlier on the bank balance for the entire family.

After listening to Kiaan discuss his game, I now needed the answer in finding out his favourite player. It’s a trivial point, but I was genuinely curious to know who the younger generation was supporting the most given the fractured state of the professional game. Was Tiger Woods still the ‘main man’ like he is to the rest of us?

“So, I have two favourite golfers,” he revealed. “One is Dean Burmester, and why I like him is because he’s so cool. His golf is so fluent, says what he wants, and he’s such a nice guy. The second is Tommy Fleetwood. He’s just such a kid-friendly guy. In the TFA Academy tournament, he’s comes around greeting kids and he’s just so chilled. That’s what I really like about him.”

A fellow South African and a Ryder Cup star. Possibly not who I would have expected, but also not a huge surprise. But who would make up his dream four ball? I asked this question, and then glanced at Kaveer, expecting it to be him.

“Burmester, Tommy, but the other player is a tricky one,” Kiaan responded, while smiling. “Not my dad because I can play with him every day if I want to. He’s not really that good.”

We all laughed together. “Well, his putting and short game is pretty good,” he continued. “He drives me along in the cart sometimes. Sometimes we play, but sometimes it’s just me for practice. I think the fourth player would be Ernie Els.”

Anyone would have thought this kid had already undertaken media training. He spoke so brilliantly, said the right things and had the golf swing to match. He has the world at his feet with a supportive family to help guide him on the right path. I’ll be cheering him on from the side-lines, and hopefully one day he’ll return on the cover of this magazine having achieved his dream of winning the Grand Slam. Good luck, Kiaan.

 

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