Korea: Three of Saudi Arabia’s brightest golfing talents will be going for glory and continuing their learning journey in different conditions as they tee it up in this week’s International Series Korea at the picturesque Lotte Skyhill Country Club Jeju, on the scenic Korean island of Jeju.
Othman Almulla, the first professional Saudi golfer, is in the field along with amateurs Faisal Salhab and Saud Al Sharif, two of the brightest hopes in the game, for the second of two back-to-back $US1.5 million marquee tournaments on the Asian Tour calendar after jetting out to Jeju from Singapore via Seoul.
All three will be hoping to put in strong performances in alien conditions to show the strides that Saudi golf has been making in recent times.
Almulla said: “It been quite an interesting year, I have made a lot of progress in the Asian Tour events I have been able to play in. I have been hitting the ball very well, but I have not been able to capitalise on the chances I have been giving myself.
“The same happened last week, I was in with a great chance of making the cut going into the back nine of the second round, but maybe I pushed it a little too hard and made some silly bogeys, but it has been a great experience again.”
Almulla had a great chance to benchmark his game against the best last week in Singapore, as he went round the Tampines Course in the same group as eventual tournament champion Nitithorn Thippong of Thailand in rounds one and two.
“I have been lucky to be paired with some very good players on practice rounds, it is great to be able to pick their brains and see what they are doing, and last week it was great to play alongside the eventual champion for the first two rounds.
“It is nice to know that I’m closer than I think, I’m glad that we are making real progress on all the work we have put in as preparation. I just need to find a bit more consistency, hit those bad shots a little better and improve the putting too, taking those 10-footers for birdie.”
Almulla has flown the flag for Saudi six times already on the Asian Tour this season, and his growing experience has proved invaluable as he helps his two junior compatriots prepare for two of the more high-profile tournaments on the calendar.
He said: “I still think of them as national team team-mates, if one of us succeed we all succeed. They are super talented, and it is great that they can rub shoulders with some high-quality professional players. They are putting in some hard work and that will stand them in good stead in the future.
“It is awesome to have the backing of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf in Saudi – we are a young golfing nation but it is nice to have that springboard to throw yourself in and learn to swim.”
Faisal, only one over par after an impressive two rounds at the Tanah Merah Country Club last week, explained how important it is to have a more experienced player to look up to. He said: “Othman is a great friend and we seek him for many aspects of the game, we ask him for a lot of advice and he has been great.”
Of his own form going into the first round on Thursday, he added: “My game is heading in the right direction, I just have to be patient and focus on the right things, this week is a tough track and a great test to see where we stand.”
Saud added: “The three of us have pretty much grown up in the national team together so having the whole team here has been great. Hopefully we can follow in Othman’s footsteps and become professionals, he is a great role model to have, he is helpful and has invested a lot of time on us.”
Looking ahead, he said: “It is going to be fun, it is not what we are used to but you have to get used to it and it is going to be interesting, a great experience. It is a beautiful course, super soft and lush. It is very different to the courses we are used to, so we are all excited about this learning experience.”