New Delhi: Neither Pakistan, nor India for that matter are known for golf. Unlike cricket, there are no legions of golf fans cheering players along. On Wednesday, while Punjab’s new CM was the talk of the town in Pakistan, golf made headlines in national dailies after its top-ranked amateur golfer Omar Khalid became the first player from the country to make the cut in the 74th US Junior Amateur Golf Champion in Oregon, United States.
Over the last two years, Khalid, 18, has been in news regularly. In 2021, he became the youngest player in Pakistan to win the National Amateur Golf Championship. At the time, cricketer Wasim Akram had tweeted that Khalid is Pakistan’s sports ‘find of the year’. He is talented and focused and has a bright future ahead, Akram had said.
Played a round of golf with Pakistan's latest sports sensation. Omar khalid, who I see as Pakistan sport's 'find of the year' is just 16 and is youngest ever player in history to win the prestigious National Amateur Golf Championship. He is talented & focused bright future ahead pic.twitter.com/S2GHxH0lJw
— Wasim Akram (@wasimakramlive) January 8, 2021
He got back-to-back titles at two of the country’s most prestigious golf tournaments – the Pakistan Open and the Chief of Air Staff Open. “It was great to play a series of WAGR events in Pakistan but the season is over now and for me and other Pakistani players to progress further (in the rankings) we need to take part in world-ranking tournaments abroad,” he said.
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Earlier this year, he became Pakistan’s highest-ranked international player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), where he is no. 296.
This year, the US Junior Amateur Championship has players from 25 nations, and is heavily dominated by American players. Reaching the qualifying stage is a major feat for Khalid and Pakistan, in a sport that has the reputation of being elite and inaccessible.
“The tee-offs had been delayed for greater than two hours because of heavy fog. However, as soon as the spherical started I used to be fully focussed on giving my finest”.
His compatriot, Yashal Shah, however, was unable to qualify for match-play, where only the top 64 are selected.
Golf, once a dying sport in Pakistan, is seeing a revival of sorts.
“The success of young Omar Khalid is proof of the fact that Pakistan’s golf is progressing and more and more youngsters are getting better at the game,” said Lieutenant General Mian Hilal Hussain, President of the Pakistan Golf Federation after his win at the National
Amateur Golf Championship in 2021.
Women golfers, too, are making waves in the international tournaments. Earlier this year, Human Amjad secured the second position at the Egyptian Women’s Amateur Golf Open, Nefertiti Cup 2022.