Saudi pro Almulla focus is to tee-off at Olympics

33-year-old to line-up alongside the greatest golfers in the world at the Saudi International

Othman Al Mulla of Saudi Arabia tees off on the 17th hole during Day two of the Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Feb.1, 2019 in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia’s leading golfer believes getting his debut year as the Kingdom’s first and only professional under his belt has enabled him to cope with the nerves that will naturally come when he plays alongside his idols at this weekend’s Saudi International.

Othman Almulla will take to the tee at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) this Thursday, when he returns to the tournament that kick-started his professional career 12 months ago.

His breakout year as a member of the MENA Tour has taken him across the fairways of the Middle East and as far afield as the UK, allowing him to develop his game as he chases his ambition of earning a place alongside the household names of golf on the coveted European Tour — while also dreaming of one-day teeing-off at the Olympic Games.

The 33-year-old will come home this weekend where he will line-up alongside the greatest golfers in the world at the Saudi International, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers — including world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, US powerhouse and defending tournament champion Dustin Johnson, and a host of Ryder Cup stalwarts and major-winning golfers.

While for any golfer such opposition would represent a fairly intimidating homecoming, Othman is adamant that the lessons he’s learned on his first year on tour will help him keep cool, calm, and in the zone, allowing him to perform to the level he knows he is capable.

He said: “It would be very, very easy to be put in an uncomfortable position playing alongside and against the best golfers in the world. But you have to be comfortable in that uncomfortable position, and that’s what I’ve learned in this last year.

“Yes, they are the best golfers in the world, but we’re all trying to make it; I’m trying to achieve my goals and so are they. I take it as a learning experience, and that’s the most important thing. Yes, these players are at a much higher level than I am, but that’s the level I want to get to. All I can do is go out there, do my best, and hope that the work I’ve put in this year will put me in a position to compete.

“Overall, I think it’s all about reminding myself how great an opportunity this is, and that there’s people supporting me regardless of how I play this week. The big thing is to learn from the experience.

“Tiger Woods is the best golfer on the planet and he says the day he doesn’t feel nervous on the first tee is the day he’ll stop playing golf. I take respite in that — knowing that if he’s the best player in the world and he feels nervous, then it’s okay for me to maybe feel a bit of that too!”

Othman’s inaugural year as a professional has allowed him to fly the flag of Saudi at tournaments in the likes of Morocco, Oman, the UAE, the UK, Bahrain and Jordan.

His on-course highlight was his final MENA Tour event of last season in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, where he birdied the last three holes to make the cut, then shot 65 on the final round to go from last place on the cut to 23rd — an experience he describes as “unbelievable”.

With the Saudi International early on his 2020 calendar, Dhahran-born Othman is hoping to carry that momentum forward into what he hopes is the beginning of a momentous decade.

“My game is feeling really good,” he said. “It’s such an honor for me to represent Saudi internationally: now it’s time for me to give back and hopefully start performing at a higher level.

“I’m 100% ready to push on to reach that. I’m putting things in place day-by-day, month-by-month, tournament-by-tournament that are going to let me show signs of what I can do in the game of golf and what I can really achieve. That continues at the Saudi International, where I want to put in a couple of competitive rounds. If I do that and play how I know I can play, then hopefully I’ll make the weekend. That’s the goal.

“My aim is then to hopefully show a bit of form this year. I want to have a high finish on the MENA Tour Order of Merit, which will then give me opportunities playing on some of the bigger tours. Within the next two years I would like to get either an Asian Tour card or a European Tour card, that’s the main-main goal, and, for the decade, what I really want to do is play in the Olympics. That’s a massive dream of mine.”

Othman will be playing with the best golfers in the world when the four-day Saudi International starts on Thursday. While the live golf will take center-stage, an off-course Entertainment Zone will be packed with interactive, family fun experiences, plus a delicious selection of food trucks and pop-ups — ensuring that the whole weekend provides ‘The Ultimate Day Out’.

Tickets remain available, with day golf tickets starting from SR50 and SR160 for a full tournament pass (four days). World class music acts will also be performing, with headline acts Marco Carola, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike (Jan. 30), Zedd and Bryan Adams (Jan. 31) and Luis Fonsi and Gipsy Kings (Feb. 1) all performing, with tickets starting from SR75.

“It was an unbelievable atmosphere at the event last year and I’m sure this year is going to be even bigger,” said Othman. — SG