I am not much of a golf fan, but I know many who are and many who think it is the king of sports. The debate on golf v. cricket that I got into the other day with a golf-loving friend will have to wait for another day. Today, the good and surprising news is that for the first time ever, Pakistan has qualified for the Golf World Cup.
Mohammad Shabbir and Mohammad Munir.
This may not be hot news for Tiger Woods and friends, but for Pakistan it is truly significant. An important barrier broken. Well done, Mohammad Shabbir and Mohammad Munir.
The popularity of golf in Pakistan has been steadily growing. It still remains an elite game, expensive to play, and expensive to maintain. But as more and more courses emerge and even schools starting their golf teams, it is a sport that is growing in popularity. It is also one of the most closely followed global games and it is good to see Pakistan making it to the Golf World Cup.
Here are the news details, from Dawn:
LAHORE: Mohammad Shabbir and Mohammad Munir etched their names in the country’s history books by guiding Pakistan to its first Mission Hills World Cup after finishing in the top three at the Asian qualifiers in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, on Saturday. The unheralded Pakistani duo shot a superb three-under-par 68 in the final round foursomes at the Seri Selangor Golf Club to finish third behind winners Singapore, represented by Lam Chih Bing and Mardan Mamat, and the Philippines’ pair of Mars Pucay and Angelo Que.
Lam and Mardan secured their fourth World Cup appearance together after claiming a one-stroke victory following a closing 72 for a four-day total of 15-under-par 269 while Que and Pucay also signed off with a 72 to finish one back. A World Cup appearance continues to elude the Malaysian pair of Iain Steel and Danny Chia as they ended fourth after a battling 71 while Myanmar finished a further three strokes behind following a 74.
"Pakistan have played in the cricket, hockey and squash World Cups, but never before in our history had we featured in golf’s World Cup. Still we made our presence felt here and, hopefully, we will be able to perform well in China, too," said a delighted Munir, who plays on the Asian Tour. "I don’t know how to describe how we feel right now. I’m sure everyone in Pakistan will be very happy," he added.
Pakistan mixed their scorecard with four birdies against two bogeys before a nailing crucial final birdie on the 18th hole to seal a historic debut against the world’s best in China later in November. Shabbir, who recently recovered from a long-term back injury, relied mostly on Munir’s experience. And he said that his partner steered them to third place. "I couldnâ€™t read the greens this week and I told Munir that I was out of form. But he told me that he had confidence in me and guided me along. That’s how we made the cut," he said.
Malaysias Chia and Steel, chasing Malaysias first World Cup appearance in eight years, fought gamely but a bogey on the 17th hole dashed their hopes. Steel, playing in his fifth qualifier, praised Pakistan for their courageous effort. "Pakistan played well. They shot three under and in this format it is very good. I had a feeling after the 14th hole that we needed to make some birdies and we were pressing but unfortunately, we didn’t get it done," said Steel.
Final round scores:
(Top three teams qualify for Mission Hills World Cup)
269 – Singapore
(LAM Chih Bing, Mardan MAMAT) 64-71-62-72
(Mars PUCAY, Angelo QUE) 60-72-66-72
274 – Pakistan
(Mohammad SHABBIR, Mohammad MUNIR) 68-73-65-68
276 – Malaysia
279 – Myanmar
284 – Hong Kong
286 – Bangladesh
293 – Indonesia
296 – Sri Lanka
296 – Nigeria
308 – Ghana
309 – Brunei
332 – Mauritius
DQ – Nepal
In an earlier report, also in Dawn (August 16; excerpts below), the Pakistan squad had expressed their optimism about World Cup qualification, which they seem now to have lived up to:
Taimur Hassan Amin, secretary of the Pakistan Golf Federation, told Dawn on Saturday, ‘We are very much confident that our professional golfers will create a stir in the qualifying tournament and hopefully we will see both Shabbir and Munir in the World Cup.’
Taimur, Pakistan’s former No.1 professional golfer, added, "Shabbir has recently clinched the Sindh Open golf championship and finished second at the Chief of Naval Staff." Meanwhile, Munir, Pakistan’s top ranking golfer, said, "I have featured in several international events for the past two months and played professional golf." For Munir, his performance in the Malaysian Golf Championship is something that inspires him to improve his skills. "I have participated in professional golf events in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia," he said. "I wish to compete against players like Tiger Woods," he concluded.
From what one can gather, the way the World Cup Golf works is that the host country and the top 18 countries (based on player rankings) qualify automatically, and then three slots each are kept for three regional qualifiers – which are called South American, Asian and European tournaments, but also include African teams since no African qualifier is held.
The teams that have already qualified include, in this order of ranking: Spain, Sweden, Ireland, England, Germany, South Africa, United States, Australia, Denmark, India, Thailand, Argentina, Italy, Japan, France, Chinese Taipie, New Zealand, Korea and hosts China.
The 55th Golf World Cup, played for a US$ 5.5 million prize, will be held in China at the Mission Hills Golf Club, the largest golf facility in the world, from Nov 26 to 29. Do tune in. We will.