Lahore, Pakistan (November 20): Ahmed Baig will be conspicuous by his absence when the eighth Faldo Series Pakistan Championship tees-off this week.
But it’s with the blessing and best wishes of the Pakistan Golf Federation that national team stalwart Baig will be missing from the 10th leg of the 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season at the Lahore Defence Raya Golf Course.
Instead of defending his title on home soil, the top-rated Pakistani in The R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking will be putting the finishing touches to his preparations for the 22nd Faldo Series Europe Grand Final at the Al Ain Equestrian Shooting & Golf Club.
Baig earned his ticket to the United Arab Emirates courtesy of winning the Boys’ Under-21 category at the 12th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in Vietnam in March.
Six-time Major champion Sir Nick Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer, said: “The clash of dates is a shame for Ahmed. However, having played so well in our Asia Grand Final, I’m looking forward to seeing how he fares in Al Ain against many of Europe’s most talented juniors. It will be a good barometer of the progress he has made
“As he’s shown with his performances this year, he’s clearly an outstanding prospect with a bright golfing future ahead of him.”
As well as his success in the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, in 2018 Baig has won the Qatar Amateur and Sindh Open and finished runner-up in the Pakistan National Amateur Championship.
Having represented his country in the Asian Games and Asia Pacific Amateur Championship this year, Baig, who turned 20 last month, is looking to test his skills against the professionals in 2019.
Among those aiming to take advantage of Baig’s absence at the 54-hole Faldo Series Pakistan Championship is Muhammad Saqib Tufail.
Saqib had the distinction of defeating Baig for the overall title in 2016 but finished a distant second last year, although he topped the standings in the Boys’ Under-18 segment. He went on to finish equal sixth in the Boys’ Under-18 age group at this year’s Grand Final – a position he wants to improve on.
Also hoping to secure return trips to Laguna Lăng Cô in Danang, Central Vietnam, in early March, 2019 are Damil Attaullah and Aania Farooq Syed.
Attaullah is defending his title in the Boys’ Under-16 category while Farooq is bidding to retain her Girls’ Under-21 crown.
Given that he’s recently signed an agreement to design a signature course on the property of a high-end residential community in Multan, Faldo is especially keen to see golfing standards in Pakistan improve.
“There is a real energy and inspiration when you design a course in a new golf market as the layers of opportunity are plenty,” said Faldo. “This course will not only represent a new recreation and lifestyle property in Pakistan but also a true opportunity for our sport.
“I have personally come to know the promise of young Pakistani golfers, through their participation in the Faldo Series. Our vision in this project with The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Multan incorporates the local texture while providing strategy and facilities equal to memorable championship courses around the world.”
Brigadier Nadeem Aslam, DHA Multan’s Project Director, said: “Golf is a fast-growing sport in Pakistan. We have talent but it needs to be nurtured to compete at international level and my objective is to see Pakistani golfers participating on the Asian and European Tours.
“Being Pakistan’s first signature course, complemented by a ‘performance academy’ and managed and operated by an internationally reputed company, this golf course will become Golf’s Centre of Excellence. Focused on Pakistan’s future with golf, the course aims to host the Faldo Series Championship and other international events.”
The 2018-19 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.
As well as two events in China, India and Thailand, championships are being staged in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chinese-Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Recognised as the only global amateur series for boys and girls, the Faldo Series was established in 1996, expanding to Asia in 2006.
Today, 40 Faldo Series tournaments take place in 30-plus countries worldwide, touching more than 7,000 golfers each year. Past champions include Tseng Ya-ni and Rory McIlroy, both multiple Major winners, while Thidapa Suwannapura (2010 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) and Nasa Hataoka (2016 Faldo Series Asia Grand Final Girls’ champion) have both won on the LPGA Tour this year.