Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Almulla on the 17th tee during the first round of the Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on January 31, 2019 in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
By Kent Gray
Given the enormity of the occasion and all the associated media hullabaloo, no one was too concerned by Othman Almulla’s scoring at the Saudi International earlier this month.
Even the 32-year-old was able to cut himself some slack after rounds of 80 and 81 left him sandwiched between a pair of amateur compatriots, Saud Al Sharif and Abdulrahman Al Mansour, at the foot of the leaderboard.
“The Saudi International went way beyond expectations for me,” said the pioneering Saudi professional who made his paid ranks bow in the kingdom’s equally historic European Tour debut at Royal Greens Golf & County Club, playing the opening 36-holes in the company of Ernie Els.
“Obviously the scoring didn’t reflect the level where I want to be but it was one week where the scoring wasn’t as important for me. It was all about inspiring people and putting smiles on kids faces. It’s such an honourable thing to inspire the future generation to do something and if I have a little part to play then I’m happy to do it.”
With that said, Almulla is determined to do more than be a trailblazer when he tees it up in his second European Tour event inside a month after being granted a special invite to the $1.75 million Oman Open starting today in Muscat.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) February 2, 2019
“It still feels like I’m living a dream when competing in such prestigious tournaments but I want to do something to make myself and my country proud,” said Almulla who will join the likes of defending champion Joost Luiten, former Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjørn and Oman’s No.1 amateur and good friend Azaan Al Rumhy at the spectacular Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf.
“If I can give myself a chance to make the cut that will be a surreal week for me. If I play the golf that I can play I know I’m good enough to be out there.
“I’m not here just to make up the numbers; I want to be competing with these guys week in week out so hopefully I can put myself in a position to do that.”
As well as being an inspiration to youngsters in Saudi, Almulla, was delighted at the thought of being a role model for junior golfers across the Middle East as he took part in a clinic with the Oman Junior Team before the Oman Open.
“I can’t tell you how heartwarming it is to see kids looking up to you as a role model for golf in the region. The kids at the clinic were really happy to see me. They will watch some of the best players in the world compete this week but for them to also keep an eye out for me and Azaan is a great thing and something that I didn’t have when growing up.”
Almulla, who has been grouped with Dane Kristoffer Reitan and Englishman Scott Gregory for his opening round on Thursday (13.10 Muscat time), is certainly indebted to his Omani pal who helped secure his start this week.
“Azaan is one of my closest and dearest friends so I spoke with him about participating in the tournament and from that conversation the Oman Golf Committee sent me an invitation which was nice,” said Almulla. “I think it’s important for the GCC countries to support each other in golf and give the guys opportunities to play in these events.”
Luiten will begin the defence of his title off the 1st tee at 12 noon with American David Lipsky and Englishman Chris Wood.