Othman, sporting his new Adidas ZG23 shoes, has an eye on the future for Saudi Arabian golf. Neville Hopwood
Sometimes we use the phrases ‘brother’ and ‘family’ in a matter-of-fact way.
Throwaway references to your best chums, the guys you meet at the club or colleagues you tolerate after work.
Then sometimes you are given a true reminder of what that term actually means when you meet someone like Othman Almulla.
The 36-year-old began his golfing career on the sand courses in Saudi Arabia, using a rubber mat and a set of borrowed clubs, with school grades suffering as he would sneak on to the course whenever he could.
That dedication and addiction paid off in the long run as he started to turn a few heads in the Middle East and beyond. How could a boy from the sand of Saudi Arabia compete with the best in the world?
Compete he did, and true to his word and ambition to become a champion, he won the Qatar Open and Saudi Aramco Invitational in 2008 and became the youngest Pan Arab Amateur Golf Tournament champ at 21, sporting his beloved Adidas gear whenever he could on the course.
After years of grafting away, Othman eventually marked his official arrival when he became the first Saudi professional golfer in 2019, aged 32, when the game began its next-generation journey in the Kingdom through Golf Saudi.
Now a seasoned pro, Othman is not content to rest on his laurels, and has already began nurturing the fruits of his labours — with two little ‘brothers’ ready to carry the torch forward for Saudi Arabian golf.
Not quite old enough to be a ‘father figure’, Othman is content to be the big brother of the Saudi golf family as Faisal Salhab and Saud Al Sharif are emerging as stars in their own making.
The recent PIF Saudi International saw Faisal and Saud mark their own professional journeys for Saudi golf in a field full of major winners and legendary names such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith.
A big stage indeed.
Saudi’s second and third golf stars have one guy to thank and to aspire to, that big brother Othman, who has guided them through a difficult — and a sometimes solitary — path to the top level in the game, having played together flying the Saudi flag in team events.
“Faisal and Saud, they are my little brothers,” Othman told Golf Digest Middle East. “Golf can be a very individual sport and you are with your own team — physios and coaches, whatever — but you find yourself out there on your own a lot of the time.
“But to be out on tour with them now as professionals will be super special, we will create the best memories together. My favourite memories in golf so far are with them in team events representing Saudi Arabia around the world in some big championships. The camaraderie and brotherhood has been created over these past years. I think I have been playing with them for almost 10 years and these relationships and friendships are not easy to come by. I truly believe that I am an older brother to them — they really are my two little brothers out here now on the pro circuit and to see them out here chasing a passion that we all share is truly uplifting.
“I think it is easy to sometimes get stuck in one event, but we now have a very fruitful career ahead of us, all three together and I am very excited about that. This is just the first step, after the partnerships with Golf Saudi and the strides we have taken around the world, and I truly believe the best is yet to come.”
Faisal was quick to praise the ‘big guy’ whom he overshadows, literally, with his bulging biceps, a product of the new revolution taking over golf in the Kingdom.
“This is another exciting step on our journey and where better to turn professional than in our home country at the Saudi International,” he said.
“It has been a long journey to get to this point but the continued support of Othman and Golf Saudi, the Saudi Golf Federation, my coaching team, and friends and family have made all the difference.
“I want to thank them for everything and hope that I can continue my success in the professional game.”
Saud was equally as excited for the future. “Turning professional has been my goal since I first caught the golf bug as a young kid through guys like Othman, and I am so happy to have the opportunity to fully pursue golf as a career,” he said.
“There are so many people to thank but Othman, Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation have been integral to growing the game within the Kingdom and allowing both of us the opportunity to play golf and reach this point.
“I can’t wait to be on the road with Othman and Faisal testing ourselves against the best players and on the best courses, and hope that our story can help others to see and believe they can do the same and follow in our footsteps. As well as winning on the international stage, we each share the dream of inspiring the next generation, and professional golf gives us the platform to do that.”
Hugging his ‘family’, Othman added: “Life on tour is a pretty demanding one, so I’m hoping that I can help the guys avoid some of my mistakes and to do whatever I can to help them overcome some of the early challenges of turning professional.”
The curtain-raiser for Faisal and Saud was not without its tragedy as Othman has to cut short ceremonies at Royal Greens to return to Dammam as his father-in-law passed away on the Tuesday evening. However, he ensured he was back in Jeddah to support his teammates and tee up for the Saudi International by Thursday, with wife Rana’s blessing and encouragement.
“It was a tough couple of days, but it was important to me to come back,” an emotional Othman said. “It was important to come back and support Saud and Faisal.
“I told my family it was important to come back and put on a brave face. We need to be role models and an inspiration to the Saudi population and that is keeping me strong.
“I think golf families are the most unsung heroes. My wife is the most supportive and special person I know.”
When back on the range and greens, Othman attracted more than a few jealous glances as he was sporting a very special set of shoes — the brand new Adidas ZG23s — something even the top pros in the US and across Europe are waiting to get their hands (and feet) on.
“A few of the guys during the pro-am stopped me and said: ‘Whoa, where did you get them?’ I won’t say who, but these are established guys looking at my shoes and casting envious glances, wanting to check them out.
“I turned pro in 2019, and the guys in Dubai started a conversation in an unofficial capacity as they saw I was always a massive fan of Adidas gear and the relationship started from there.
“I started wearing some of the best golf gear available and, around two years ago, we got together with an official partnership.
“I can’t tell you how much I love being an Adidas athlete, as it’s all I remember wearing.”
As understanding as she is, Rana has her limits when it comes to Othman’s attire.
“My wife gives me a hard time about it as my whole wardrobe is Adidas, and it’s my lifestyle regardless what we are going out to do,” he admitted.
“To be honest the gear is amazing and that is why I wear it all the time. The shoes are some of the most comfortable involved in the game and the ZG21s, which were the previous versions of the new one, were one of my favourite pairs of golf shoes.
“The guys began to tease me: ‘Wait to you see what is coming in 2023.’ I was kinda looking around for snippets and previews and couldn’t find anything. Then these arrived at my house and I was like: ‘Wow.’
“There are one of the lightest shoes in golf, just like the previous iterations, and it is nice to feel I can go at it as hard as I want I am going to feel super stable and my feet will still be fresh after a round, know what I mean?
“I won’t go into the tech but all I know is I know they help me play my best golf.”