Arab amateur golfers make their mark at PIF Saudi International

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JEDDAH: It may be a battle at the top of the leaderboard between Abraham Ancer and Cameron Young, but two young Arabs also made their mark at the PIF Saudi International this week.

Amateurs Issa Abou El-Ela of Egypt and El Mehdi Fakori of Morocco both made the cut at the Asian Tour’s flagship event against some of the best golfers in the world.

“From my perspective, it hasn’t sunk in, but I think it’s just a great thing for confidence,” Abou El-Ela said.

“At the end of the day, it’s more about the whole Arab community. It’s not just me, it’s more of a sign that we can do it. We now have Faisal, Saud, Othman and Shergo who are all professionals competing out here too.

“I’m obviously over the moon to make the cut but it just shows that as Arabs we have a chance to shine on the global stage and it doesn’t have to be at football.

“Now we have a chance to show it, and with the support of Golf Saudi and the Arab Golf Federation, I don’t see why in five to 10 years, even past me, we see one of our juniors in the Arab community winning one of these.”

Fakori also finished the week on a high, shooting a four-under 66 in the final round on Sunday.

“I felt less pressure today and gave the course the proper respect that it deserved from the first hole. Unlike yesterday, I was playing for birdies,” he said.

Both men said they were grateful to the International Series for the opportunity to play against some of the world’s best golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and Bryson Dechambeau.

“I’m very happy to be playing with the world’s best players,” Fakori said. “I’m playing with them and getting the firsthand experience to learn what I need. But when I’m in the field I am only focusing on myself and my own game.”

Abou El-Ela, who birdied the last hole at Royal Greens to make the cut, said: “A bunch of the guys on the Asian tour I’ve known for a while since the International Series have been taking me under their wing, like Richard Lee and a lot of other guys, so I’ve just started to feel more comfortable on this tour. I’ve seen a lot of these players succeed before and it just made me thirstier to do better.”

The 28-year-old Egyptian added: “I’m just trying to help build a way just to prove that nothing’s out of reach … obviously we have a lot of young talented juniors from all the countries around the Middle East, I’ve seen it in Pan Arabs, I’ve seen it day in and day out.”

In a message to those aspiring to make the top grade, he said: “You have so many opportunities and I just think we have a chance, so don’t let any obstacles like not finding a college or you can’t find a coach get in your way. You are what you make yourself, so just keep fighting and one day we’ll see one of these juniors here and I can’t wait to watch myself.”

Fakori added: “You need to respect the sport, you need to be disciplined and consistent. There’s no one better than the other, there’s just a player who’s more consistent.”

The other Arab golfers in the field this week were Faisal Salhab, Saud Alsharif and Othman Almulla of Saudi Arabia — the first two of whom were making their professional debuts — Baha Boulakmine of Tunisia, Jamal Allali and Adam Bresnu of Morocco, and Shergo Al-Kurdi of Jordan.

The next stop for Abou El-Ela and Fakori is the International Series Oman, which starts on Thursday, and where they will line up against the likes of Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Eugenio Chacarra and Carlos Ortiz.