Middle eastern golf continues to go from strength to strength with 12 Arab players appearing in the field at this week’s International Series Qatar event on the Asian Tour.
Seven amateurs and five professionals join the field alongside some of the best players across the Asian Tour with the likes of Charl Schwartzel and Justin Harding teeing it up at the picturesque Doha Golf Club from February 16 to 19.
Othman Almulla, Saud Alsharif and Faisal Salhab will represent Saudi Arabia, Shergo Al Kurdi will represent Jordan, Ayoub Lguirati, El Mehdi Fakori and Adam Bresnu will represent Morocco, while locals Saleh Alkaabi and Jaham Al Kuwari will be the home favourites in front of the Qatari crowds.
Issa Abouelela, Elyes Barhoumi and Azzan Al Rumhy will complete the Arab contingent, representing Egypt, Tunisia and Oman respectively.
Each player represents the Arab Golf Federation’s vision of creating access for its professionals and amateurs to major events, giving them the opportunity to elevate their competitiveness on the world stage and allowing them to serve as role models for the next generation.
Offering a whopping total prize money of $2.5m, the tournament – the third leg of the 2023 Asian Tour and the second leg of the Asian Tour’s International Series – will see leading golfers in action.
American Berry Henson heads into the tournament after finishing joint second in last week’s International Series Oman, while also trying to recover from a challenging off season and battling some mental demons.
The American finished four shots behind the champion, Takumi Kanaya from Japan, for one of the finest performances of his 20-year professional career, which also saw him earn his biggest ever pay cheque, US$173,000. The end result though disguised a testing tournament and build up that required him to draw upon all his experience and patience.
“I posted something on social media on Saturday, about kind of falling in love with the process,” the 43-year-old said ahead of this week’s International Series event.
“I knew my game wasn’t sharp and I know if I can control the controllables, which is getting into my process and my routine, then I can still play a high level of golf and that’s kind of what I did.
“I didn’t let the bad shots affect me, which I hit a lot, but the mishits worked out ok, I didn’t lose any balls for the week. And I just wasn’t very sharp, I had eight three putts.”
Henson made adjustments to his swing in the second half of last year which he has struggled to implement, including through the off season, which meant he started this season low on confidence, an unusual occurrence for a player who normally has heaps of it.
“I got into some positions that were detrimental and so we spent six weeks over the break trying to get back to where I was and I never quite got there during the trip back home,” said the American, who missed the cut in the season opening PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
“I also wasn’t able to do the strength training that I normally do, and I feel that beat me up a little. It also affected my mental aura, so I wasn’t prepared for Saudi, and it was a stressful week.”
A four-under-par front-nine score of 32 in the third round played a big part in helping him to find his confidence in Oman. It was the start of an impressive weekend that saw him shoot fine back-to-back two-under-par 70s in extremely challenging, windy conditions on the impressive but testing golf course, Al Mouj Golf.
He adds: “The tournament was a massive momentum shift; I can feel it this week. Everything mentally seems a lot clearer. The momentum has shifted back 180 to where I needed to be. I feel like the pressure is completely off now.”
All the Arab players in the field will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Henson fighting through potential difficulties and see themselves at the top of the leaderboard this week in Doha.