UAE Host Two Amateur Golf Majors: Asia-Pacific Amateur and Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Golf Championships
The Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) hosted both the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) and the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship (WAAP) over the last two weeks.
Week one at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, organized by Augusta National along with The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), saw 93 male players from the Asia-Pacific region participate in this 72 hole event that was being played for the 12th occasion.
Keita Nakajima (Japan), 21 years old and men’s World No. 1 in the WAGR, became the third player from Japan to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, defeating Taichi Kho (Hong Kong) on the second hole of a thrilling playoff on hole 18, after tying on 14 under par. With this win Nakajima received an invitation to the Masters Tournament in 2022, thus making his dream of playing a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club with the reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama come true, as well as an exemption into The 150th Open at St Andrews, Scotland.
The UAE was represented by Rashed El Emadi, Khalifa Al Masaood, Khalid Yousuf, and Ahmad Skaik. It was Skaik who made the 36-hole cut with rounds of 69, 71, 77, 71, to finish an impressive tied 42nd.
H.E. Sheikh Fahim, Chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation, said of Skaik’s performance, “Ahmad is a very devoted golfer, and we are so proud of his performance this week, by being only the second Emirati to make the cut in the AAC.”
The second week in Abu Dhabi saw the girls take center stage at Abu Dhabi Golf Club over the National Course.
The WAAP has been developed by The R&A and APGC to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite female amateurs to the international stage and was held for just the third time in 2021 following a year off for both Asia-Pacific events due to Covid-19 restrictions.
78 players from 16 countries saw Women’s WAGR number 121 Mizuki Hashimoto (Japan) shoot four rounds of four under par 68 to win by one shot from runners-up Natthakritta Vongtaveelap (Thai), Kan Bunnabodee (Thai), and Kelsey Bennett (Aus) with Bunnabodee having the best final round 66 to go along with her course record 64 in round 2.
Hashimoto, by virtue of this victory, earns invitations to play in two major championships; The 2022 AIG Women’s Open and The 2022 Amundi Evian Championship, the 2022 Hana Financial Group Championship as well as an exemption for the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Local UAE based player, 17-year-old Natalii Gupta, born and raised in Dubai, who takes lessons with Jamie McConnell at the CH3 Golf Academy at The Els Club Dubai, shot a four-round total of 282, 6 under par, to finish a creditable tied 13th over the course set up at almost 6,500 yards.
Other players to represent the UAE who did not make the cut were: Hamda Al Suwaidi, Alia Al Emadi and Cheryl Hannah Alan.
Natalii said at the conclusion of her final round, “I had a blast this week. It was so much fun. I’m thankful to be here and to be given this opportunity to play. It was not the best finish today but I had fun. I’ve never played an event that’s this important and of this class. It was pretty good to see the standards. But I hit my goal this week.”
Mr. Adel Zarouni, Vice Chairman of the EGF said, “Over the last two weeks we have hosted the top governing bodies of golf and along with these two prestigious major amateur golf events in the UAE. It was especially gratifying to see representatives from the UAE, Ahmad and Natalii make their respective cuts and perform so well in such impressive international competition. We hope to be invited to host more events like these in the future and to offer playing opportunities for our elite UAE National golfers and UAE residents.”
Both events were shown live on TV around the world with the following regions receiving broadcast coverage; Europe, Middle East, and Africa, Asia Pacific, Australasia, North, and Latin America.