It may be a battle at the top of the leaderboard between Abraham Ancer and Cameron Young today, but another duo is making their own impact on the region.
Two amateur Arab stars, Egyptian Issa Abou El Ela and Morrocan El Mehdi Fakori, made the cut this week at the PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, the Asian Tour’s flag ship event, against some of the best players 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 doesn’t have to be at football or specific sports so 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 5 to 10 years even past me we see one of our juniors in the Arab community winning one of these.”
Meanwhile, Fakori finished the week on a high shooting a 4-under-par 66 in the final round today, he said after the round, “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.”
Abou El Ela and Fakori teed up alongside golfing legends this week, that included Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, and Bryson Dechambeau. The Arab stars attributed the opportunities from the International Series and the support from fellow Asian Tour players to helping them keep their nerve and make the cut this week.
“I’m very happy to be playing with the world’s best players,” the Moroccan continued, “I’m playing with them and getting the first-hand 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 on the mark, added, “A bunch of the guys on the Asian tour I’ve known for a while since 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 two young golfers will be inspiring boys and girls across Egypt, Morocco, and in the entire Arab community help the next generations of golfers.
The 28-year-old Egyptian said, “I’m just trying to help build a way just to prove that nothing’s out of reach in the end of the day, 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 aspiring athletes, he continued, “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.”
Other Arab golfers in the field this week included Faisal Salhab (KSA), Saud Alsharif (KSA) – who both made their professional debuts this week – Othman Almulla (KSA), Baha Boulakmine (TUN), Jamal Allali (MAR), Adam Bresnu (MAR), and Shergo Al Kurdi (JOR).
Both golfers will go on to play other Asian Tour events this year, the first stop is next week at the International Series Oman, February 9-12. They will once again tee up against some of the best in the world including Brooks Koepka, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Eugenio Chacarra, and Carlos Ortiz.