LONDON: Having followed up an opening 80 with an 81 it would be all too easy for Othman Almulla to feel down in the dumps about a professional debut which saw him finish second last. That it was at his home course and in the inaugural Saudi International only add to any possible despair.
But the Kingdom’s first golf pro is determined to hit any pity into the long rough and claimed his two rounds at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will be invaluable as he goes in search of success.
“It was a tough week,” Almulla told Arab News.
“It was obviously a big moment for me in my golfing career. The week was surreal and that may have got the better of me on the golf course.
“But I took a lot out of it to be honest (and) I learned a lot about what I can and need to do better.”
It is never easy to make the leap from talented amateur to professional, from playing for fun to playing to make a living. Even the best in the world have found the transition tough — just ask Justin Rose. The current world No. 1 missed his first 21 cuts as a pro before setting out on the path to Major glory and a lot of money.
While the self-effacing Almulla would rapidly dismiss any comparisons between him and Rose, after just one pro event the Englishman’s tale is one he doubtless can understand.
“It’s a different animal, professional golf, and I am happy I got to see that,” Almulla said.
“I took on some shots I should not have taken on and got penalized. But I am proud at how I held myself, I was very, very keen to remind myself that no mater how I was playing or what I was shooting, it was a privilege to be out there.”
Almulla’s two playing partners last week were Tour veterans Ernie Els and Andy Sullivan. Both have experienced the trials and tribulations of being a pro golfer and Almulla revealed that just being alongside them was the sort of lesson few newcomers are lucky to get.
“They were very kind with their time. They made of point of coming to talk to me, to make me feel at ease and make me feel like I belonged out there with them.
“I was very lucky to spend time with Ernie (before the tournament) who told me how to go about the week and just to enjoy it really. He warned me it was going to be tough.”
With the rollercoaster of emotions now over, Almulla can concentrate on learning from the experience. His second tournament as pro is the first event on this year’s MENA Tour, beginning today at the Ayla Golf Club in Jordan.
“Last week was amazing and I didn’t want it to end. From watching what the pros do on the range, watching what they do between rounds, I learned from the whole experience,” he said.
“But on the other hand I am buzzing to get cracking on now and get my teeth into this pro career of mine and to see how far I can go.
“Having seen what pros do I know it is not enough to go out and shoot par or one-over or a few under.
“The level is really, really high and I am happy to be a part of it. I believe in my game and feel I can put those scores together but it’s like a switch I need to flick. I need to flick that switch and really go for it.”
If there was one thing he admits he needs to take from the Saudi International and take into his MENA Tour mission it is the need to get up and down much more often.
“Everyone says ‘short game, short game’, it gets drummed into you. But that’s because it is true,” Almulla said.
“Ernie got up and down from some the of the dodgiest places I have ever seen and that’s how you keep your round going. You don’t hit it great all the time , but it’s about how you turn that 76 into a 71 — that’s the biggest takeaway from last week.”
Rose’s story is a famous one and one that doubtless many newly turned pros cling onto if drives are not finding the fairway and putts not dropping in. But for every Rose there are many others who do not make it to the top of golf. That is something the grounded Almulla is only too aware of.
“The Saudi Golf Federation is supporting me giving me the best chance to further my career,” the 32-year-old said.
“It is up to me to take those chances and try and learn from all those opportunities.
“Many good golfers with a lot of talent have not made it and so it is up to me grab this opportunity and go for it.
“I am going to do my best, and hopefully at the end of what I hope will be long career I will be able to look at myself in the mirror and say I left it all out there.”