Othman Alumlla, the first Saudi Arabian golfer to qualify and play in a major European Tour event, talks about how he started playing golf and his playing experiences in HK.
When and how did you start playing golf?
I started playing golf when I was 14 years old. I used to play soccer, which is massive in Saudi Arabia. I lived and grew up in a expats community at Dharan, Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, as my parents worked for Saudi Aramco. One of my American friends used to play soccer with me suggested playing golf together. So, I said OK. Back then, we didn’t have grass golf courses, and we just had sand golf courses. You have a white chalk line along the fairway, and we have to carry around a turf mat. We hit it off the mat on the fairway.
I’m very competitive by nature. I used to beat all of my friends who have played golf for many years. They gave me a driver and a putter, so I could practice putting every day to get better. Then I talked to my parents as I wanted a new set of golf clubs. I wanted to play and continued to practice. For a year after that, I continued to practice three times a week. And I was lucky enough to meet Ali Balharith, the national team captain. He played a big part of golf in Saudi Arabia for 15 years. We kind of set up the first junior team in the country. We went for training camps in Dubai.
When I was 16, I broke into the first team and represented Saudi Arabia since then. Such a privilege and honour to present my own country. I would love to continue to do this.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
I have been very lucky. I was fortunate to play in some very prestigious events. Be there and see the Saudi flag flying there. I won some good regional tournaments. In 2016, my team won the Pan Arab Championship, which is the biggest team event in the region, where the Arab nations send their best golfers. We won the tournament first time in 40 years. That’s one of my highlights.
And I was able to play the European Tour in 2007 when I teed off in the same tournament (Dubai Desert Classic) with Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson. I would say that was one of the mass highlights in my life. Because I started playing on sand, and then I was playing a European Tour event, I could never have imagined that.
Another highlight will be the European Tour tournament in Saudi Arabia (to be held in Jan 2019), it’s incredible. To say it as a dream cannot even justify it, because even in my dream it won’t happen. And a world-class venue like the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club here. It’s amazing.
Do you have a favourite course?
My favourite in Saudi Arabia will be Royal Greens. Royal Melbourne is probably my favourite oversea golf course I have played. I have also played in the Hong Kong Golf Club. It’s so beautiful! How they treat it as a golf club, and the golf course itself. I was lucky enough to tag along with the guys at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club during the AsiaPacific Amateur Championship 3 to 4 years ago. It’s one of the most picturesque golf courses in the world. Incredible. And the relationship between the Hong Kong Golf Association and Saudi Arabian Golf Federation has been very good because they welcomed us well when we came. We don’t forget that.
Who would be in your dream fourball?
Tiger Woods, who’s been my hero and I look up to him. I have been lucky to meet him a few times. Maybe Jack Nicklaus and Hideki Matsuyama. We are worlds apart in Asia, but Hideki is the No.1 Asian player. It will be awesome.
The 18th of Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, Saudi Arabia