Golf Weekly

Juniors shine with stars

February 7 - 13, 2018

Gulf Weekly Juniors shine with stars

GOLFING veteran Nick Faldo’s inspirational Faldo Series, which once staged a regular stopover in Bahrain, is expanding its global reach.

He is in the final stages of organising the ‘Major Champions Invitational’, which will have close to 20 teams represented by major champions.

Each team will have two boys and two girls from their junior programmes, each wearing team colours with their champions’ name on the side of the sleeve.

It is scheduled for March 12-14 at the US Bella Collina, not far from Orlando, Florida, where the Arnold Palmer Invitational is being played.

Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are among those who will be sending juniors, along with Annika Sorenstam and Justin Rose. The Seve Ballesteros Foundation is supporting a team representing the great Spaniard, while Southern Company will have a team in honour of the late Payne Stewart.

Faldo ran into McIlroy last year in South Africa during the early stages of planning. He said McIlroy asked him the age limit, and Faldo told him it likely would be between 16 and 21.

“He said: ‘I’ve got a really good 15-year-old.’ And I said, ‘Guess what? The age limit is now 15,’” Faldo said. “The bottom line is they have a player they think should be there, then they should be invited.”

Faldo said the players in town for Bay Hill likely will come by for the 54-hole event that ends on Wednesday, or at least for a dinner. He said Stenson has agreed to do a clinic, and Sorenstam and Scott also have offered help.

He said the tournament will offer world amateur ranking points. “What I think is cool is we all do our bit for communities in our areas of the world,” Faldo said. “This is a carrot for the kids. ‘Hey, you impress me, we’ve got this event going on.’ Our goal in one year is we get this established. We will have hand-picked some of the best amateurs in the world.”

Faldo said the ultimate goal is for the participants to make a name for themselves down the road. He referenced Hideki Matsuyama, who twice won the Asia Pacific Amateur, which awards a spot in the Masters. Matsuyama made the cut both times he played as an amateur. “That gets on the radar very quickly,” he said.

The Royal Golf Club (RGC) once staged the Faldo Series Middle East Championship. The inaugural event was a huge success in 2009, with boys and girls aged 12 to 21 attending from six different countries across the region.

Local children aged 11 and under were also invited to compete in a Faldo Mini Series event on the club’s Wee Monty par-3 course followed by a BBQ lunch and golf trick-show with their families.

England’s Daniel Owen, then a 21-year-old resident of Bahrain, won the event. The former RGC ambassador recently relocated to Europe to play full time on the Euro Pro Tour.

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