Despite being the taller of Qatar’s two leading amateurs, Ali Al Shahrani has usually been the ‘quiet one’ when compared to Saleh Al Kaabi.
However, the once-shy student is starting to step out of the shadow of his big-hitting friend, especially after his best-ever showing at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
This week, Al Shahrani shot consecutive rounds of three-over-par 75 to give him further belief that he can one day make the weekend cut at the long-standing European Tour event, which has been hosted at Doha Golf Club since 1998.
Al Shahrani first played in the event in 2012 when he was only 17 – “I was nervous, but excited” – and has since played every year from 2014.
“The Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is the highlight of my year. It’s the biggest tournament I play each year and the main goal is to make the cut,” he said.
“This was my best year. I shot 75 and 75. I could have shot better, but that’s golf and sometimes you get unlucky. That’s fine, so hopefully next year. “
Now 21, Al Shahrani was seven when he was introduced to golf by his father, a member at Doha Golf Club who reached a handicap of “about 14”. Al Shahrani is now in his third year at Qatar University and continues to develop his game under Team Qatar coach Mike Elliot.
“My father brought me to Doha Golf Club when I was seven. I just loved golf and started playing more. I played football, I played tennis, but I just found something special in golf and stuck with it. I kept playing and training until I became good,” Al Shahrani said.
“I train almost every day here at Doha Golf Club. Mike has been my coach for about the past four years. He’s a really good coach. He has taught me a lot and my game has improved since he came.”
Like many golfers, Al Shahrani idolises Tiger Woods and lights up when recalling his first time seeing the 14-time Major winner in person.
“I just liked him since I was a little boy. I actually saw him live. I played a junior tournament in Scotland and then I watched him at the British Open at St Andrews,” he said.
“I watched him on the last day and it was fantastic. I tried to get close, but it was difficult because there were so many people!”
Although spending most of the year in Qatar due to his studies, Al Shahrani occasionally travels for tournaments and last Saturday returned from Oman just days ahead of the 19th Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Along with Al Kaabi, he regularly represents Qatar in the annual Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship – where the winner earns a start at the Masters – and also has European Challenge Tour events lined up later this year.
Al Shahrani is happy with how his game is progressing and said he will hold off thinking about turning professional until after he has completed his studies.
“I won’t turn pro for a while. I’m still at university for another two years, so maybe after that. I hope to play in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters again. I’m trying every year to make the cut and I’m getting closer, so hopefully next year. Why not?”