Rhea Nair, a product of the Emirates Golf Federation’s Junior Development Programme, gets a dream opportunity to display her growing talent on the world stage when she features in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters to be held at the Emirates Golf Club from December 8 to 11.
The 21-year-old prodigy, who has just turned professional, has been handed a special sponsor’s invitation by ‘golf in Dubai’, the promoters and organisers of the Ladies European Tour event, in line with their policy to encourage and promote emerging players.
A good finish in her first tournament as a professional could well mark a watershed moment in a career that began in 1998 when she joined the junior programmes run by what was then known as the UAE Golf Association at the tender age of nine.
“Playing in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters is kind of a dream come true for me,” said the young prodigy, who has spent over 10 years in the United States honing her golfing skills.
“I would like to thank Mohamed Juma Buamaim and his ‘golf in Dubai’ team for their kind gesture in inviting me to play in an event well known for attracting one of the strongest fields.
“In fact, Mr Mohamed was the chairman of JDP when I took my first golf lesson. I will try and my best to ensure I make him feel proud,” said Rhea whose career-best low round being a 64 she shot in a qualifier in Alabama.
After learning basic rudiments of the game in Dubai, Rhea proceeded to the United States to pursue golf and higher studies. She first joined IJGA (now called the Hank Haney Academy) and then went to the David Leadbetter Academy in Florida where she passed the High School.
Earlier this year, Rhea graduated from the famed Alabama University where she was a member of the women’s golf team on a full scholarship and played a key role in guiding the team to a string of victories.
The Dubai-based Rhea had her chances to make it to the LPGA Sectional Qualifier, but missed out on the honour by one shot at the Plantation Golf and Country Club in Florida last month.
She is determined to make amends. “I couldn’t have asked for better opportunity - and place - to start my professional career. The field is studded with very big names likes Michelle Wie, In-Kyung and Laura Davies, but I have faith in my ability to compete at this level. You can’t guarantee results, but staying focused on the job will be the key,” said Rhea, who will join experienced Smriti Mehra as the second Indian in the 108-player field.
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of ‘golf in Dubai’, said: “I hope our invitation to Rhea will encourage and inspire other youngsters to take to the game. Her participation in the event is a good advertisement for women’s golf in the UAE, and also for India.
“I am sure the Indian community will turn up in good numbers to cheer her up. I wish Rhea the very best. It’s a great chance for her announce her arrival on the big scene.”