Growth of golf in the Kingdom key to young Saudi star’s home tournament preparation

Growth of golf in the Kingdom key to young Saudi star’s home tournament preparation
Saud Alsharif, 20, will line-up alongside golf’s biggest names when he tees-off in the second annual edition of Saudi Arabia’s only professional tournament. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Growth of golf in the Kingdom key to young Saudi star’s home tournament preparation

Growth of golf in the Kingdom key to young Saudi star’s home tournament preparation
  • Saud aged only 19 failed to qualify for last year's weekend’s final two days
  • Saud remains undaunted by high-profile opposition, taking the opportunity in his stride

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s leading young golfer has revealed that the Kingdom’s increasing love of the game has been pivotal in his preparation for what he hopes will be a successful return to this month’s Saudi International.
Saud Alsharif, 20, will line up alongside golf’s biggest names when he tees-off in the second annual edition of Saudi Arabia’s only professional tournament, held at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City from Jan. 30 through to Feb 2.
It is the second year in a row that Saud – who has been a member of the Saudi National Golf Team for five years – will compete in $3,500,000 prize-pool European Tour contest.
At last year’s inaugural event, Saud – then aged only 19 – failed to qualify for the weekend’s final two days after a disappointing second round.
However, he believes that he returns to the 2020 tournament a much more developed player – and attributes that to the support and backing of the growing golfing community in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East.
Saud said: “I played decent last year. It was pretty tough as playing in such a big event was very new to me. I was expecting a lot from myself, which I think actually weighed me down a bit. But this time I’m going to go in fresh, with the same high expectations, but trusting my game and I believe that will allow me to play well.
“The golf community in Saudi is very, very supportive. We get players at a young age into the game and try and make them love the game. We have very talented players coming through the ranks and we will keep on growing with the community and the support we get around it.
“Our National Team coaches too are very, very good guys. I’ve benefitted so much from just seeing them even in the last month alone, and I played really well in [recent competitions in] Morocco and Oman.
“We’re just trying to work on our mentality with coach Jamie McConnell, who’ll be my caddie at the Saudi International. There’s nothing to worry about in terms of my technique at the moment – it’s all about keeping my head in the game and that’s what I need to do.”
Saud will be rubbing shoulders with golfing icons including World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, defending Saudi International champion Dustin Johnson, current Open champion Shane Lowry, and US fan-favourite Phil Mickelson.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, and four-times major winning South African Ernie Els are some of the other household names competing.
Saud remains undaunted by the opposition and is taking the opportunity in his stride – and even believes playing alongside the world’s best golfers can only improve his game.
“It is very, very good for us to have this caliber of players playing in the second Saudi International. It’s a real pleasure for me to be part of that field, and I would love to take the opportunity to play well. I think the tournament is going to keep helping Saudi golf and benefit the community around it,” he said.
“I always tell myself that if I play with better players, I am only going to benefit from that. That is the mentality every kid should have, especially if they want to take the game on more seriously. You should always seek to play with better players, no matter the age difference. Just try and be competitive.”
Saud – who hopes to become a professional – continued: “Golf should always be fun. If you’re not having fun, then you should reset and see what’s going wrong. It can be a difficult sport to learn at the start, so it’s important at that point to try and surround yourself with people that motivate you. I’ve loved golf from a young age and I just want to keep on getting better, which motivates me. For the young kids, the golf community here is always so supportive, so they should get out and play.”
Saud has just completed a month’s training with the Saudi Arabian Golf Federation-backed National Golf Team at the at the Claude Harman School in Dubai. He trained alongside amateur teammate Faisal Salhab, who will also compete in the SoftBank Investment Advisers-sponsored Saudi International.
Completing the contingent of Saudi players lining-up in the tournament will be the Kingdom’s first and only professional player, Othman Almulla.


Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through

Updated 03 December 2020

Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through

Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through
  • There are not a lot of reasons to smile because of the injuries it’s tricky. Then the boys throw themselves into that game, says Klopp

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp hailed a depleted Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Ajax to reach the last 16 as one of his greatest Champions League nights given the circumstances of a lengthy injury list.

The Reds’ youngsters took their chance to shine as 19-year-old Curtis Jones scored the only goal, while Caoimhin Kelleher kept a clean sheet against the Dutch giants on his European debut.

Victory also ensures Klopp’s men win Group D with a game to spare, allowing the German to give some of his stars a much-needed rest away to Midtjylland next week.

“Honestly, since I am (at) Liverpool, for how it feels, one of the biggest Champions League nights,” said Klopp, who has guided Liverpool to two finals and won the competition in 2019.

“Without supporters in, it was the most important, the most difficult and the most exceptional game.”

Kelleher had to deputize for Alisson Becker, who added to Klopp’s long injury list before kickoff, while Andrew Robertson needed heavy strapping applied to his ankle in the first half.

Liverpool were already without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner through injury.

“There are not a lot of reasons to smile because of the injuries it’s tricky. Then the boys throw themselves into that game,” added Klopp.

“How the kids played. Robbo with a proper knock on the ankle pushing himself through, Hendo (Jordan Henderson) with a proper knock on the back, pushing himself through. Gini (Wijnaldum) I have no words for him, Curtis Jones what a game for a 19-year-old boy. I’m really proud tonight.”

Jones has been one of the beneficiaries of those absentees with many more first-team minutes this season and came closest to breaking the deadlock before halftime when his curling effort came back off the post after just six minutes.

The midfielder was then alive to score the winner just before the hour mark when a lofted cross from Neco Williams appeared easy pickings for Ajax ‘keeper Andre Onana, but he instead tried to let the ball go behind for a goal kick and was caught out when Jones sneaked in at the back post to turn the ball into an unguarded net.

“That’s how it is sometimes, in situations where there are problems there is always an opportunity for someone else and he took it just exceptionally well,” added Klopp.

Ajax had been unbeaten in eight games since losing to at home to Liverpool in October, but they could not find a way past the inspired Kelleher.

All of the young Irishman’s previous appearances had come in domestic cup competitions and he was made to work for his clean sheet on the big stage as he flew to his left to turn Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range effort behind.

Mazraoui was denied again by Kelleher early in the second half, but David Neres should have swept home the rebound when he hit the outside of the post.

Ajax now must beat Atalanta in Amsterdam next week to make the last 16 and they were left to regret what might have been but for one moment of madness from Onana.

The Spaniard made amends with a great save to turn Roberto Firmino’s effort onto the post to keep Ajax in the game after Liverpool’s best move of the match involving Henderson and Salah.

But Kelleher produced an even better stop two minutes from time to parry Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s powerful header from point-blank range to see Liverpool over the line.

A delighted Klopp ran onto the field to embrace his goalkeeper after the full-time whistle and will hope his squad is in better health for another deep run in the knockout stages come the new year.

“You never know how a boy will react,” said Klopp. “I’m really happy with how calm he was, with how good he was.”