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He’s fair-haired and has Scottish roots and teenager Ronan Smith is proud to don the national team jersey of Bahrain as one of the kingdom’s brightest golfing talents.
The 17-year-old St Christopher’s School pupil is originally from the UK’s North Sea oil centre of Aberdeen, but has spent almost his entire life in Bahrain, the country that made the Gulf region’s first oil discovery.
He qualified for a Bahrain passport due to his late father, Bob, being a holder, therefore qualifying him to play for his adopted country. “At first I was extremely nervous being the only British-born player in the team,” he said. “Blonde, six-foot tall … it was hard not to feel like the odd one out! However, it didn’t take me long to fit in and the guys have been brilliant. They treat me exactly the same as anyone-else and I feel completely part of the team. They’re all so supportive and we’re all friends.”
Smith, who lives with his mum, Diane, and brother, David, first developed a passion for the sport when he was eight and regularly played with his grandpa in Scotland.
When he returned to Bahrain, he continued playing with his friend Sebastian Woodrow and really enjoyed the game and carried on developing his sporting talent.
He impressed as a schoolboy and had lessons at the Royal Golf Club with its then-teaching professional Juan Manuel Fuentes Perez.
After Perez became the Bahrain Golf Association (BGA) national team coach, he was invited to become part of the national junior team.
Smith’s father, Bob, a former Gulf Air and Bahrain Air pilot, passed away in 2015 and was a Bahraini passport holder, which allowed his son to also receive one and represent the kingdom internationally.
“I’ve been with the team for two years and I’ve improved massively as a player,” said Smith. “Juan helped tremendously to develop my game and I can’t thank him enough. Sadly, he has just left his position and we will be getting a new coach in the summer, but I will stay in contact with him and ask him for tips.
“At the moment I’m balancing golf with studying for my A-levels, but I usually have lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays where we work to improve technique, mentality and course management. Then, in my other free time, I play rounds socially with other RGC members or practice skills.”
There are two major tournaments on the calendar, the Pan-Arab Championship and the GCC Golf Championship which are held approximately six months apart. In the meantime, Smith takes part in school competitions and recently starred in the British Schools in the Middle East Golf Tournament in Dubai, where a tremendous captain’s performance helped St Chris secure a runners-up position, as featured in GulfWeekly.
He describes his best performance as the 2018 Faldo Series, where he won his division after shooting just two over par over three days.
Last month, he won ‘best junior’ at the Bahrain Amateur tournament.
As for the future, Smith is prioritising academics but is keen to pursue a career in golf if he can. He said: “The current plan is to go to university in the UK and join a golf team there. I’ll put my education first but if I get a lucky break, who knows?
“However, if in the next year my game really improves, I’ll perhaps look at the US if I can get to the level I really want to achieve. The US has more opportunities and golfing scholarship programmes than the UK, so we’ll see.
“As for where I am with the game right now, I’d mainly like to thank the coach because he helped me develop my game so much, the Bahrain national team for being so supportive, my mum for allowing me to join the team and, finally, my late dad for encouraging me to play and giving me the opportunity to represent this country.”