A globe-trotting Abu Dhabi amateur on achieving a “life goal” at this year’s PGA Championship, why he’d rather watch the Ryder Cup on TV and his plea to Sergio Garcia
Meet the Abu Dhabi amateur who achieved a life goal at the year’s final big. BY KENT GRAY
The year’s four majors and Europe’s emphatic Ryder Cup performance near Paris might be consigned to history, but they’ll never be forgotten by one Abu Dhabi-based amateur.
For Charles Arnestad, the 100th PGA Championship in August was particularly memorable and not only because Brooks Koepka held off Tiger Woods by two strokes at Bellerive Country Club. When he 47-year-old South African arrived in Missouri, he completed a dream of spectating at all four of golf’s bigs and the Ryder Cup, adding Koepka’s second major win of the year to Louis Oosthuizen’s 2010 Open Championship triumph at St. Andrews, the 2011 Masters captured by Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer’s runaway U.S. Open victory on Pinehurst No.2 and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland later in 2014.
“My first two majors were won by South Africans... I thought that perhaps I was a lucky charm,” the South African chartered accountant, joked.
Arnestad conjured up the idea of ticking off golf’s biggest events “as a life goal” after cheering Oosthuizen and Schwartzel to the claret jug and green jacket respectively.
“I decided to attend the 2014 U.S. Open since Pinehurst No. 2 is such a well-known course. When deciding which U.S. PGA Championship I wanted to at- tend, I noticed that the 2018 event at Bellerive would be the 100th playing.
“Having travelled extensively around the USA but having never been to St Louis, this worked out well. I registered for tickets at least a year in advance and bought them as soon as they became available to the public, immediately after the 2017 event. I booked my hotel and made my travel plans 12 months in advance to ensure that I could stay as close to the course as possible.”
The rest, you could say, is the stuff of legendary golf memories.
“It was truly a life highlight to be able to visit Augusta National,” Arnestad says of his favourite major. “The course is immaculately well maintained in stunning natural scenery. What the TV viewer does not really perceive are the undulations on the course. For example, the large slope down from the 10th tee to the green or the long uphill walk from the 18th tee to the green. It is an incredible experience to hear the roars around the course, particularly on a Sunday afternoon as the winner is being decided.”
When asked how the Ryder Cup compares to spectating at the majors, the Jiggers Dubai
Golf Society 22-handiapper had a surprising answer.
“Honestly, the Ryder Cup is really difficult to watch live... I didn’t really enjoy it [Europe’s 16 ½ -11½ victory in the 40th matches at Gleneagles] as much as the majors.
“You have so many spectators following so few groups. With the majors you have the field spread out across the course so you are more easily able to get a better view of the players.”
Arnestad has flags from each of his five bucket list events, including a Masters memento signed by more than 80 players.
“The flag was signed ‘ To Charles’ by Gary Player when I was fortunate to play in the Gary Player Invitational a few years ago in Abu Dhabi. I would love to have the flag signed by Tiger Woods before I have it framed for hanging in my house,” Arnestad says.
“I also have the pin flags from each of the majors and the Ryder Cup, all of which, except for the 2018 PGA Championship, have been signed ‘ To Charles’ by the winners of the tournament. I am hoping to meet Brooks Koepka and have my 2018 PGA Championship flag signed.
“I’m also a big fan of Sergio Garcia which is why I was so delighted for him when he won the 2017 Masters. When I was at the Desert Classic this year, he was kind enough to sign a 2017 Masters flag for me but he did not wish to sign it ‘ To Charles’ – maybe that can still be arranged.”
So, what’s left on your golf bucket list? “I plan to attend the golf event at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. In addition, there are a few courses that I would love to play, with the most famous being Augusta National.
“I realise that this is likely to remain a golfing dream, given the difficulty of securing an invitation to this beautiful course. But perhaps one day.”
“It is an incredible experience to hear the roars.”