The voice of an official
Taymour Abu El Kheir is currently the vice president of the Egyptian Golf Federation (EGF) and has been on its board for the last eight years through to the present. He also serves as a member of the executive committee board at the Arab Golf Federation.
“Before becoming an official at the EGF, I was a member of the Egyptian national team from when I was 17 until 2010, almost 22 years on the tour,” he shared. “During which time I won the Egyptian Amateur Open and represented Egypt in the World Cup. I have been participating both individually and on the team.”
He revealed that there are around 2,500 male and female golfers registered in the federation who participate in the annual tournaments and championships organized at the federation.
“We organize about 50 annual events and competitions on all levels including the Clubs’ Open Championship, the federation’s tournaments for juniors, amateurs, and professionals. Private clubs also organize international competitions; however, any of those international competitions that are being held here in Egypt should be held under the auspices of the Egyptian Golf Federation, the kinds of the European ALPS and the EPD Tours in Europe. It all comes in coordination with the International and European bodies of the sport,” he explained.
According to Abu El Kheir, there are almost 25 golf courses all over Egypt. “They are spread out all over the country, mainly in Cairo, Alexandria, Ain Sokhna, Hurghada, Sharm El-Sheikh, and El Gouna. These golf courses are active, are used for trainings and competitions, and are available for golf lovers to practice as a hobby or leisure. We would love to have more of course because it is good for the sport and tourism as well.”
In the sport, Egypt is ranked fifth in Africa and second behind Morocco on the Arab level. “Morocco has a huge budget of two million Euros allocated for golf, which is incomparable to Egypt’s 250,000 Egyptian pounds. They have many golf courses all over the country as well, especially since the president of the Moroccan federation is HRH Prince Rashid, brother of the Moroccan king, and he pays a lot of attention to the sport and it’s very big there.”
“We have just won the Individual Pan Arab Games and first place by Dean Naime, and the second place in the Pan Arab Teams Competition,” Abu El Kheir explained.
“There are many championships coming up, which we are looking forward to as we have a pipeline of national and international events, but due to COVID-19, most competitions were suspended. However, in my capacity at the board of the Arab Federation, I managed to bring to Egypt the Junior Pan Arab Cup and the Senior Pan Arab Cup, as well as the Arab Ryder Cup, which includes the Eastern and Western parts of the Arab World, meaning the Arab African countries and the Arab Asian Gulf countries. However, we haven’t decided the dates yet because of the pandemic,” Abu El Kheir said.
“We have postponed all Egyptian events to a calendar year to be held in 2021, and we were to host the African Juniors for men and women in December, but it will now be held sometime in April,” he added.
The vice president of the EGF and member of the executive committee board at the Arab Golf Federation said that there are some talented amateur and professional players in Egypt to be followed like Issa Abu El Elaa, Egypt’s top professional player and Dean Naime.
And just like all other sports federations, the golf federation has some objectives for the future of sport. “Our major objective actually started eight years ago when I joined the federation. We decided to focus on the juniors and work on setting it as a foundation and base to our federation because you can’t only have top players. So, we started by setting a system, approaching juniors and bringing them in. We planned a training program and prepared them to play in tournaments where they could compete and improve. We were successful and it paid off when in seven years we managed to deliver an Egyptian Arab champion, and that was last December. Maged is now 20 and he started so young, at the age of seven, and all those who are winning now, except Mamdouh El Sheikh, were part of the juniors program we had implemented. Despite our little resources, we still managed to produce champions on the continental and regional levels.”
“Issa was third at the African Championship and Dean won the Arab Championship in 2019 and we continue on the same path and system. Now we have 10, 11, and 12 year old players who will join them and maintain their route to the top. Most importantly, each year, one of those juniors makes it to the senior level and joins the national team coming from this base we had created years ago. In golf, we choose three players of 15 to make a team.”
“Surprisingly, in Egypt, people are afraid of the sport of golf because they think it is costly when it is not. It is even cheaper than to send your child to a football academy, which is very expensive. Unfortunately, they hear about the millions of pounds footballers make, but they don’t understand that a footballer’s career can end as of the age of 29, contrary to the sport of golf where you can win a tour at the age of 50, like Tiger Woods. In football, a football coach can retire at an age of 50.”
Abu El Kheir also agreed with the players who said that funding was a major obstacle facing the development of golf, and that it is desperately needed to take the sport forward.
“This year, we had no tournaments because of the COVID-19. So we are using the funds to organize an online program for golfers with IMG and the world’s top academy, the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, which is the same academy that Issa and Dean had joined as well as Adham El-Shamy who won third in the 2019 U-18 Juniors Pan Arab Championship held in Cairo. He came third after two Moroccans. In the teams’ competition, we were second behind Morocco in the U18, U15 and U13 for boys. So, we will be investing our money on this program that will take us to a higher level.”
“We definitely need more funding for the future than what we used to have before where we spent it on traveling to African and Arab competitions as well as to nearby European countries. We also used to take our players, Issa, Maged, Dean, and Fares, to participate at the Grand Prix Biarritz, in the southwest of France, where there are the best golf courses when we had the means. Actually, we went there for two years. We used to save money and generate the resources that would allow us to take part in such events as well as use some other funding from the International Golf Federation (IGF),” Abu El Kheir said.
“We also use our funding to approach schools, especially in Cairo and Alexandria, in order to introduce the sport to young children, and they have shown some enthusiasm about it. We need to increase our base of players for the future. For that, we also need funding.”
The board member of the EGF has joined forces with players who have all agreed that the sport of golf is not only for the elite or the rich. In response to the notion that gold is for the wealthy, Abu El Kheir said, “Not at all. This is the wrong idea that most people believe. You can go to play golf anywhere, and you would pay less than you pay for your children in any other sport. There are some clubs who open their courses for free for non-members as well.”