Emirati Special Olympics golfer Ali Sumadiaa had the experience of a lifetime on Wednesday (January 20) when he partnered Major winner and Ryder Cup Europe Captain Pádraig Harrington at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Pro-Am tournament at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The Pro-Am tournament gives keen amateur golfers the opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest names in golf as a curtain raiser to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship – the first Rolex Series tournament of the season – that will take place between January 21 - 24.
Sumadiaa was playing as part of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council team and shot three birdies during his round in his first Pro-Am event.
The 16-year-old Emirati took up golf two years ago and went on to represent the United Arab Emirates in the Special Olympics hosted in Abu Dhabi in 2019 just two months after taking up the sport.
Harrington has had a long affiliation with the Special Olympics and had been a Global Ambassador for the organisation since 2010.
Speaking about his experience today, Sumadiaa said:
“I’m really proud and happy to play with Pádraig, it was a dream and I hope to come back next year to play with him again. I had three birdies and it was a lot of fun out there. Pádraig’s very good.
“I was impressed by his use of the driver and he has a great swing. I want to be able to swing like him one day. He gave me some good tips for the bunkers and where to place my weight for the shot.”
After the round, Harrington added:
“I had great fun today with Ali. Every time you’re involved with the Special Olympics athletes, they’re always a joy to be a round and incredibly enthusiastic. Ali played well, he is a good strong player, and he had a few birdies today.
“He told me he’s won a silver medal and is going for gold next time and it’s certainly a possibility. I’d actually like to take some of his enthusiasm into the tournament with my own golf.”
Harrington is part of a star-studded field competing for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, including Major winners Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, as well as 2020 Champion Lee Westwood.
Previous winners Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood, as well as World Number Nine Tyrrell Hatton will all battle it out at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to lift one of the most sought-after trophies on the European Tour.
With qualification for the Ryder Cup later this year up for grabs, Team Europe Captain Harrington will be keeping a keen eye on the other top Europeans in the field this week, including DP World Tour Championship winner Matt Fitzpatrick and Ryder Cup specialist Ian Poulter.
First staged in 2006, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is hosted at the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 16th consecutive year from January 21-24, 2021, with a prize fund of US$8 million and 8,000 Race to Dubai points available.