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Al Ain ready to soak in Challenge Tour action after rains in UAE

Nicolas Colsaerts makes his first Challenge Tour start of the season
17 Apr 2024 15:30

Despite the UAE witnessing its heaviest rainfall on record this week, Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club has pulled out all the stops to ensure the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Challenge goes ahead as scheduled from April 18-21.

The game's rising stars and DP World Tour winners will compete in the seventh event on the Challenge Tour's 2024 Road to Mallorca schedule, including 2023 Ryder Cup Vice Captain Nicolas Colsaerts, five-time DP World Tour winner Alex Levy, UAE's No.1 professional Joshua Grenville-Wood and Craig Howie, who is an ambassador for this week's host venue and has been a regular at the course for over a decade.

"It's great to get away from the hustle and bustle of cities like Dubai," said Howie, who has made the cut in all six of his Challenge Tour starts this season.

"Al Ain is a little bit quieter, so it's a perfect place to come and work away from distractions. The course is always in great condition, and the team do a great job of keeping it like that."

Howie and Co will be joined by several of the UAE's homegrown talents thanks to the Emirates Golf Federation's (EGF) long-term partnership with the European Tour group, which aims to develop golf in the UAE for at least the next decade.

As part of that agreement, the EGF has received 60 invitations across the Abu Dhabi Challenge and next week's UAE Challenge at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club to help create playing opportunities and provide a pathway for UAE golfers.



Nine of those invitations have gone to UAE national team players, including the country's No.1 amateur golfer Ahmad Skaik, his brother Mohammad and Khalifa Al Masaood. Rayan Ahmed will also be flying the flag for the UAE, one month after securing both the individual and team golds at last month's GCC Golf Championship in Qatar.

"I can't wait to rub shoulders with the highest quality players on the Tour and represent the UAE," said Ahmed. "My first target is to make the cut, but at the same time, my focus will be on my planning and execution, and I will take it each shot at a time."

As well as giving local amateurs a taste of elite-level tournaments, two club professionals in the UAE are also set to rub shoulders with the stars of tomorrow.

Dubai Hills PGA professional Louis Gaughan, who made the cut at this event last season, secured an invite from the EGF after topping the Emirates PGA Order of Merit, while Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club's Thomas Ogilvie banked an invite after winning the Emirates PGA play-offs.

Adding to the challenge, the team at the host venue has introduced 10 new tee boxes to lengthen the course from 6,700 yards to 7,117.

While the course-in-charge ensured plenty of time in the lead-up to the changes making a debut, a new challenge was sent the way of Thomas Love, Director of Agronomy, with the UAE experiencing the most severe rainfall in its recorded history of 75 years.

The Khatm Al Shakla area, just 36km away from this week's host venue, saw the worst of the weather with 254mm of rainfall in less than 24 hours. Yet, Love's team have ensured the course is in prime shape.

"We knew rain was forecasted," Love said, "so we were already semi-prepared for it. The agronomy team came in at 3am and I think the last storm was around 1.30am. Most turf areas are playable and allowed us to let the practice day go ahead.

"The main goal is to get the bunkers back in play for the first round tomorrow [Thursday]. Multiple pumps and big 4500-gallon tankers have been working non-stop all day. I'm still very confident we will have the course in fine shape for the event."

Source: Aletihad - Abu Dhabi
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