Ma­jor Achieve­ment

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

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents - — KENT GRAY

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.”

Pho­to­graphs: Charles Arnes­tad

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