At the beginning of the year, two of Saudi Arabia’s emerging golf stars took the life-changing decision to go professional at the PIF Saudi International.
Now, with a number of events under their belts, including the Asian Tour International Series, both Faisal Salhab and Saud Al Sharif took time out to speak to Golf Digest Middle East about their progress on tour among some of the best players in the world.
Q: Can you describe both what is similar — and what is different — about your lives in general now you are professional?
Faisal: I’m very lucky to have teammates that share the same schedule, so it still feels like we get to share moments and learn from each other and help each other as well. It is a lot more than the independent “You eat what you kill”, and I am very fortunate to have support from Golf Saudi.
Saud: The similarities I think have been there since amateur days as Faisal and I travelled the world together competing on international stages, and that hasn’t changed yet, thankfully. We have built a brotherhood relationship for years and years to come.
Q: When you reflect on your introduction to golf, at what point did it become your aspiration to turn professional?
FS: When I first joined the national team. The more tournaments I competed in, and the exposure I got to the game, the more my aspiration to grow to progress in the game. As a kid I always used to watch golf on TV. I stayed up at night to watch all the majors and I found the players inspiring, hoping to be like them one day.
SAS: Ever since I got introduced to the game from the age of 10 I knew I had the potential to work hard and be the best version of myself on the golf course and outside, so to myself it was clear ever since the get-go.
Q: What advice would you give an aspiring young golfer, especially in a market in Saudi Arabia where the sport is yet to be fully established?
FS: Luckily in Saudi there are a lot of great programmes that are being established to fully support the next generation of golfers. My personal advice is to start with no expectations, enjoy the game, and when you feel like you’re ready to take it to the next level, there will be the right support system.
SAS: My advice will be no matter where you are or what your resources are with determination and a dream comes a bright future, and that comes with loving what you do and being able to go that extra mile each day for it.
Q: Aside from golf, how do practice weeks differ from tournament weeks?
FS: The weeks that are just practice, I usually go to the gym, play some other sports and try to generally stay active and healthy.
SAS: I try to keep my technical in check on off weeks with Jamie [McConnell], and still challenge myself in that pressured atmosphere of a golf tournament even in practice with drills, you have to practise under pressure to be able to perform under pressure.
Q: What challenges do an international schedule present for travelling tour professionals? In particular, how do you manage your health and fitness?
FS: I am still learning how to cope and deal with all the travel, as at times it can be a bit overwhelming. Even when I was an amateur we would play on schedules that expected us to travel a lot. Having those teammates that travel and have the same schedule as you make it less lonely and we can rely on each other, some people are more organised than others.
SAS: I try to make sure I tick a lot of boxes when it comes to nutrition, make sure I consume enough calories when travelling and obviously staying hydrated is key.
Q: How do courses and conditions differ around the world where you have competed? Is it important to you to play in other regions? If so, why is that?
FS: Different regions have different types of golf courses. Some courses are tighter than others, and weather can play a role as well. That is why it’s important to play on different courses to challenge myself.
SAS: It is important by all means. To be a complete global-performing professional you have to develop that skill of being able to perform under any given circumstance, rain, wind, hot, humid and different ground surfaces around the world, and luckily the busy worldwide schedule we have presents us with these different playing conditions to be able to learn from.
Q: How significant is The International Series to you when setting your schedule?
FS: They are the biggest events in my schedule. I always want to be playing at my best during those weeks as they are largest events on my circuit and have the highest quality field and the points are very meaningful towards gaining a full card.
Q: What has been your impression of International Series events so far and which events, if any, are you looking forward to?
FS: Overall, they are very well organised, courses and locations are great. The facilities are well prepped.
SAS: Again, The International Series is the platform for us right now to make strides towards our golf games, and it helps bring out the best of our golf. The addition of the St Andrews Bay Championship is extremely cool.
Q: What is your proudest moment in golf since turning professional and why?
FS: Turning professional in Saudi Arabia is definitely my biggest highlight, and one of the proudest moments was grinding it out in Oman, at the first International Series event of the year, to make the cut on a tough course.
SAS: Probably making my first cut back in February this year at International Series Qatar, with it being my second tournament as a pro, and being in the lead during round one too was indeed a proud moment.
Q: What targets have you set yourself for the remainder of 2023? And beyond?
FS: For 2023, with the remaining events that I have is to settle myself as a professional and make cuts and strive for bigger goals as I achieve my stepping-stone goals.
SAS: I am optimistic, feel like it will be good year to hopefully take as a learning experience, and am confident that I will be successful in some events. Who knows?