Sergio Garcia and 17-year-old Qatari Sami Qush will both seek a third straight victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters Challenge Match at Doha Golf Club on Monday.
Four-time Major winner Ernie Els and 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen will also captain groups of talented teenagers in the fun-filled team event.
The Challenge Match has been shortened from nine holes to five, but the size of the teams has continued to expand, with a total of 12 Qatari juniors across the three teams, up from nine last year and six in the inaugural edition in 2014.
Team Garcia includes the charismatic Qush, part of the Spaniard’s victorious side for the past two years, 2015 winner Ahmed Al Muttawah (15), Laila Al Abdulla (14) and six-handicapper Arnav Jain (15), who played with Justin Rose last year and Henrik Stenson in 2014.
Garcia, an 11-time European Tour winner and seven-time Ryder Cup representative, said: “The Challenge Match has been a great way for me to start the week in Doha and prepare for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. I remember Sami well and also Ahmed from last year, so I hope we can all play well again this time.
“I always enjoy playing with juniors and hopefully passing on some helpful advice. All of us pros find it rewarding to pass on our experience to youngsters and trying to spread the game around the world. We enjoy these events as much as them.”
When Qush met Garcia on the first tee at the 2014 Challenge Match, he confidently asked him: “Hola, como estas?” However, when Garcia started responding in Spanish, the youngster playfully conceded that his grasp of the language was limited.
After last year’s Challenge Match, Qush even said that Garcia played better than in the first edition and now the teenager is looking forward to teaming up with one of his idols for a third straight year.
“Playing with Sergio Garcia in the Challenge Match for the past two years has been one of my greatest experiences,” said Qush, who has an eight handicap.
“Both times he has been really great with us, giving advice and tips on how to hit shots. Obviously it's fun to later find out that we won, but spending so much time with him on the course is the most fun for me. I’m looking forward to doing it again and I know Ahmed is as well.”
Els, who won his most recent Major title at the 2012 Open Championship, will lead three-handicapper Laila Hrinda (17), Abdulla Abedeen (17), Fahad Mir (14) and Ali Al Mesaifri (15).
Oosthuizen, 33, will benefit from teaming up with four teenagers who played in last year’s event. Abdulrahman Al Naimi (16) – part of Garcia’s team in 2014 – Abdulrahman Al Dehaimi (14) and Nada Mir (16) all played with Stenson last year, while Abdulrahman Al Thani was in Rose’s side.
Hassan Al Nuaimi, President of the Qatar Golf Association, said: “The Challenge Match on Monday has become an integral part of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters week and a big focus of the Qatar Golf Association’s development programme.
“Each year several of our leading junior talents spend time playing with and learning from some of the world’s top pros, who kindly give up their time to pass on their experience and knowledge. I know it’s a major highlight for all the youngsters who take part and I want to thank all the pros for providing such a special experience.”
Els (2005) and Garcia (2014) are former winners of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, while Oosthuizen, playing in Doha for the first time since 2013, was a runner-up in 2009.
Other stars in this year’s field include defending champion Branden Grace, 2013 winner Chris Wood and four of his victorious EurAsia Cup teammates, Thai stars Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, and US Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau.
Fans can also watch Jin Cheng, China’s top amateur, make his Doha debut less than three months before he competes in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. The teenager earned his spot at the year’s first Major by winning the seventh Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Hong Kong last October.