Kazakhstan is geographically one of the largest countries on the planet, yet its golfing hopes rest on 16 year old Daulet Tuleubayev, who makes history at this week’s M2M Russian Open by becoming the first player from his home nation to play a European Tour event.
The American-based youngster shares a coach with Brandt Snedeker and Davis Love III and has practiced alongside Matt Kuchar so he is no stranger to the big time, but it will be a whole new experience when he tees it up at Skolkovo Golf Club in Moscow.
The European Tour has a long-held tradition of spreading the gospel of the game of golf in nations where little to no history of the sport exists.
Kazakhstan has been one of the great success stories of Europe’s top developmental tour, the Challenge Tour, having hosted the Kazakhstan Open - an event which counts Italian Edoardo Molinari and England’s Tommy Fleetwood as former champions - in the city of Almaty for each of the last ten years.
Kazakhstan is the largest land-locked country in the world - the ninth-largest overall – and has a land-mass which is bigger than all of Western Europe. Yet, despite his tender age, Tuleubayev is their biggest hope in the game of golf having been mentored by the promoter of the Kazakhstan Open and the man known as the ‘godfather of Kazakh golf’, Konstantin Lifanov.
“It’s such a great opportunity I’ve been given with my invite here by the Russian Federation and I really want to perform well and show that I have earned this opportunity,” said Tuleubayev.
“Right now, my game is the best it’s ever been. All parts of my game are there. I’ve done a lot of work over the summer in the States and it’s better than ever. I’m still working with Todd Anderson and Randy Myers over at Sea Island in Georgia.
“My game keeps growing. I try not to get stagnant and practicing over in the States really helps. In September 2014 I was admitted to Phillips Exeter Academy, a private boarding school, and that focusses heavily on education so I’ve just been going to school.
“I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of new friends and our golf team did really well this season in New Hampshire. I tried a US Open Qualifier in May and I was looking good but the morning before the tournament I got sick and I threw up on the first tee. I missed by two shots.
“I played a US Amateur qualifier in Florida and shot 72, 73, finished fifth and missed by a shot but overall my game was good so I was proud of myself.”
Tuleubayev has played in the Kazakshstan Open before, but despite having experience playing alongside seasoned professionals, he still believes he will feel the nerves on the first tee at Skolkovo Golf Club.
“Absolutely I will be nervous,” he said. “Every time feels like the first time when you’re playing with professionals and I’m still 16, so this all feels a little crazy. I know what it feels like know to play with them and hopefully I’m better prepared this time.
“Being the only person representing Kazakhstan here, obviously I’m doing it for my country too and I can hopefully get the name of my country out on the world stage. Hopefully I can present it in good light.
“The tournament here has been organised so well and I know it has live TV coverage so that is extremely exciting for me. Hopefully people from my country will see me and be proud.
“I try not to set expectations for myself, just do the best that I can. I know how good my game is so I just have to keep that in mind. So I won’t set any big expectations and that’s the only way I can play good.”
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