Rising star

February 21, 2021

Schoolboy Omar Khalid has created history by winning the National Amateur Golf Championship at the age of just 16 primarily because of his talent, hard work and highly supportive parents. But he now needs greater patronage to climb up to the next level

The great Tiger Woods was born on 30th December 1975 in Cypress, California. His father, who himself was a golfer, noticed that there was something different in his son. At six months age, the boy could balance on his father’s palm as he walked through his home. At seven months his father gave him a putter to fool around with, and the boy dragged it everywhere he went along with his walker.

When he was just ten months old, he climbed down from his high chair, trundled over a golf club that had been cut down to his size by his father and imitated the swing he had been watching in the garage. At age two he won the ten and under division.

There was no time to waste, by three, the boy was learning how to play out of the sand trap and his father was mapping his destiny. He knew his son was chosen for this. When Tiger was four years old, his father could drop him off at a golf course at nine in the morning and pick him up eight hours later, sometimes with the money he’d won from those foolish enough to doubt. At eight, the son beat his father for first time. His father Earl was an outstanding athlete and thus he was rightly placed to train Tiger himself. He understood the people, culture and had a sociology major, he served in Vietnam as a member of Army’s elite Green Berets and later taught psychological warfare to officers.

Tiger is not just an outstanding, legendary golfer but is also a Stanford graduate and his parents were well aware of the fact that education and sports go hands in gloves in the development of a champion athlete.

It seems strange when you talk about the world’s greatest golfer, who has 110 professional wins and 82 PGA titles under his belt and then mention a golf rookie, who has yet to establish himself on the national professional golf circuit.

But Omar Khalid, the sixteen-year-old sensation has created history and buzz in the national media by becoming the youngest ever winner of the prestigious National Amateur Golf Championship at the Karachi Golf Club. The lanky kid achieved victory in an authoritative manner. He struck five birdies over the first nine holes in the final round in the end won against the country’s top-ranked players by a big five-shot margin. That’s quite an achievement.

The biggest commonality between the great Tiger and the young Omar Khalid is the role of highly supportive parents. It’s my personal experience that the support and understanding of the game by the parents play a pivotal role during formative years of champion athletes. That’s why I believe that all those parents who dream about their children growing into champions should understand the value of parental involvement in sports.

Fortunately, I have known Omar since he was in play school. He took a keen interest in basketball, football and cricket. Omar is a gifted, ambidextrous kid and so he can play and score with both right and left hands.

Omar took up sports with the all-out support of his parents at the age of five. He showed talent with leg spin bowling but later picked tennis. At the age of 10, he tried golf and instantly fell in love with the game.

Mentally strong and intrinsically motivated, Omar began as a 36-handicapper and within a few months started to win Masters and Juniors’ tournaments. At the age of 13 he made his debut in the Faldo Series, the world’s biggest junior golf tournament and finished as the runner-up in the boys’ 16s category in the Pakistan leg of the tournament in 2018. He was chosen to represent Pakistan at the Jack Nicklaus International Junior Championship in Haiku, China the same year.

Omar started spending more time on the golf courses carrying his own golf bag on the practice range as well as on the course. With eight to ten hours spent on the golf course almost every day, Omar had to get up at 4 in the morning to complete his homework.

Omar is extremely hard working as he cleans his own golf clubs and golf balls every day. He has an obsession for them and never allows anyone to touch his golf bag. He doesn’t use a caddy even in tournaments. I’m sure that is one of the reasons behind his meteoric rise at the national level, his hard work.

Omar is also mostly self-taught. In his initial years, Omar received coaching from Jamal Badshah, one of the most accomplished coaches in Pakistan. Over the years he has received some tips from coaches like Ghulam Baloch, Ahmed Ali Shah and Mir Yaldram Mahmood in the US. But most of the time he relies on books and videos available on the internet to improve his game. That’s because unlike cricket and squash, you can’t find world class training and coaching for golfers in Pakistan.

As I mentioned earlier, one of Omar’s greatest assets is the all out support he gets from his parents. They have been giving him their time, energy and putting up with all his expenses. But golf is one of the most expensive sports in the world. Players like Omar need support both from the relevant authorities and private sector so that they can get best possible training and exposure.

Just like Tiger Omar is lucky to have supportive parents but the mighty Woods was luckier to be born in USA, where sports are seen in a completely different prospective. Omar has bigger challenges ahead and his love for golf alone is not enough to take this young champion from his current status as Pakistan’s national champion to being a world class golfer. He has shown great potential and needs all out support to win international laurels for Pakistan in the future.

We have lost many talented athletes in the fog of time because society, parents, authorities and sponsors were not there for necessary support. The Pakistan Golf Federation must not lose such a talent and take all necessary steps to nourish this young athlete into a leading international player, who can fly our flag in the world of golf.

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Rising star