WELSHMAN Jamie Donaldson’s win in the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship was witnessed by four spectators enjoying a Duddingston reunion in the UAE capital.
Alastair McLean, the head pro, his son Stuart and James Dick are all in the Middle East visiting the club’s former assistant professional, Tom Buchanan.
After earning his PGA qualification at the Capital club, he’s now the golf operations manager at Al Ain, the second largest city in Abu Dhabi.
He’s been there for a year and is enjoying a challenge that is a lot different to what he was used to during an enjoyable spell under McLean at Duddingston.
“I’d say it was a bit of a gamble because I didn’t know how a golf operations role operated, to be honest,” Buchanan told the Evening News as he watched Paul Lawrie play his final round. “I’ve since learned that it’s dealing with people from when they arrive until they leave – customer service, in other words.
“It’s totally different to what we do back home but I’m enjoying the challenge. We have 27 staff who look after people from start to finish when they play at Al Ain.
“You are virtually running the golf resort, making sure people are making their tee times, getting them round the course in four hours and 15 minutes maximum etc.”
Buchanan turned his attention to the Middle East after he’d completed his PGA training under McLean and is enjoying life at Al Ain.
“It’s an 18-hole course that’s a bit different in that we’ve got nine holes inside the racecourse and a new nine on the outskirts of the racecourse that was built in 2009,” he added.
“They are two different nines but it’s a good test of golf.
“We’ve just held the MENA (Middle Eastern and Northern Africa) Tour final for the second year running and there’s a possibility of that being extended to three, which would be huge. There’s a great selection of courses out here and everything is based on customer service and enjoyment.
“For instance, our driving range is 31 bays long – we move where players are hitting from every day. We have 6500 range balls so everything is there for golfers.”
Buchanan just missed out on earning a spot alongside Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, the world’s top two, in the $2.7million event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
He finished second in the qualifier for UAE PGA pros to Ayrshireman Callum Nicoll, who missed the cut along with the two star attractions.
“I’ve played a lot more since I came over here and my game has been good,” said Buchanan.
“We have floodlights at Al Ain so we can play at night and hopefully my game can continue to improve. The club are supportive of that. They want me to go out and put the name of the club out there and let people see it.”
As well as taking in Donaldson’s win, Buchanan and the three others played golf at Al Ain on Friday, when McLean Jnr had a hole-in-one. They then played the Earth Course at Jumeirah Estates, venue for the Tour Championship last November, the following day and were rounding things off yesterday at Yas Links.
“I’ve still got good connections with Duddington and it’s great that Alastair, Stuart and James are over at the moment,” said Buchanan, a former Edinburgh & East Alliance champion, who will miss his old boss and the two others when they head home – but there are lots of Scots in the UAE to keep him company.
“We play the MENA Tour,” he said.
“It’s small but we have our own PGA.
“There’s normally a couple of events per month and there’s a good few Scottish boys out here so that’s good.
“Mark Bruce, who was at Gullane, is now at Emirates, though I’ve not been there to see him yet, while there’s a few boys from the west at Dubai Creek.”
Donaldson, who closed with a 68 to win by a shot from Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen, celebrated his triumph on Yas Island, where Buchanan and the others had their photos taken with him.