A good coach, they say, coaches for the love of the game more than anything else. Syed Ahmed Ali Shah is one such man.
Having left a lucrative job in Britain, Ahmed returned to Pakistan last year with a burning desire to make a difference in the one sport he loves the most: Golf.
As a teenager, Ahmed excelled at golf as he mastered the rocky courses of Quetta before earning the right to represent Pakistan at the international level. His rise from a novice to Pakistan’s leading amateur was nothing less than meteoric. He began playing golf at 14 and by 17 he was a scratch golfer. Ahmed was soon selected in the Pakistan team and went on to win the Bangladesh Amateur Championship in Dhaka.
One of the major reasons behind his success was the fact that Ahmed has the backing and support of his father — Muhammad Ali Shah — who was himself a former national champion.
Ahmed benefitted from the experience of his father and won a series of national-level tournaments all over Pakistan before making a career move that took him away from the country to the seemingly greener pastures of Britain.
But after a 13-year-long hiatus from golf, Ahmed rediscovered his love for golf after finding that he hasn’t lost his touch. It all happened at a golf course in England where Ahmed went to play a friendly round with his colleagues. He shot a fabulous score of three-under-par 69 and that turned out to be the decisive factor for Ahmed to make his comeback. But this time he wanted to return as coach. In the summer of 2014, Ahmed assisted his father in conducting a series of golf clinics in various parts of the country with Irish coach Sean Herron. Those camps strengthened Ahmed’s desire to work as a full-time coach in Pakistan. ‘The News on Sunday’ interviewed Ahmed to know more about his plans. Following are the excerpts.
TNS: Tell us about your golfing background?
Ahmed Ali Shah: I started playing golf at the age of 14, as I grew up watching my father and older brothers play this game. I became a scratch golfer when I was 17. I played for Pakistan from 1998 to 2001. I won the Bangladesh amateur championship in 1999 and was runner-up in 2000. I was also winner of numerous national tournaments which include Bolan open 1998, CNS Open 1998, Punjab and Frontier (KPK) amateur championships. Later, I moved to UK and that meant that I was no longer involved in golf for several years.
TNS: What tempted you to make a golfing comeback?
AAS: After spending 13 years away from golf I played a brilliant round of 69 which prompted me to get in touch with the game again. I passed my level 3 coaching course with World Golf Teachers Federation (WGTF) in UK in 2013. Since then me and my father have been working on an academy in Pakistan.
TNS: Your father was also a national champion. Please share with us his credentials?
AAS: My father was a national champion in the mid 60s and has been a national coach for many years. Currently he is serving his fifth tenure as executive member of the Pakistan Golf Federation (PGF). He is counted among the greatest icons of Pakistan golf because of his contributions to the game that span over almost 60 years.
TNS: What prompted you to turn to coaching?
AAS: Watching closely from UK, I assessed that the level of Pakistani amateur players has dropped significantly, due to many reasons. One of the main reasons behind it is not getting the right information, training and coaching. Seeing this prompted me to start coaching in Pakistan rather than in UK and Europe. The idea is to make a difference and help our amateur golfers to excel both at the national and international levels.
TNS: What are the main aims and objectives of your academy?
AAS: Our main aim is not to give you something that we have but to reveal to you something you already possess. Hopefully with the right support we are determined to bring our local golfers to a standard where they will be representing Pakistan on the Asian Tour and beyond, in the next few years. Our approach towards teaching the game is delightfully different than traditional style of coaching.
Our youngsters are in need of proper coaching as they are the future for the sport. Our unique design of coaching will increase the level of enjoyment, playing golf to full potential and accelerate the rate of learning for the players of all ages from youngest to the oldest.
TNS: Do you think golf can be a career option for Pakistani youngsters?
AAS: Yes, it can be a great career for younger golfers if given the right information, training and guidance. They can play on different international circuits in due time, provided that they have their parents’ support and are passionate about the sport.
TNS: In terms of popularity golf lags far behind other sports like cricket and football in Pakistan. What factors do you think can change things for the game in this country?
AAS: We have to make golf more attractive to the general public. It’s a long process but if some of our top players started playing International tours, it will attract the youngsters to follow in their footsteps.
TNS: Just like Tiger Woods helped popularise golf globally do you think a Pakistan-born star can do the same in this country?
AAS: Yes, but in due time. It will not be globally but certainly on the national and Asian level.
TN: Do you think Pakistan has the potential to produce such a star?
AAS: Yes it does, with the right guidance and information.
TNS: Do you think Pakistan golf has a bright future?
AAS: With more qualified coaches in the country Pakistan certainly has an immense potential and a bright future.
TNS: What role can PGF and provincial associations play in developing and promoting golf?
AAS: PGF and provincial associations have to start recognizing the qualified coaches and hiring them for the provincial and national teams. They can also help by the right amount of finance and support to the talented players and more competitions for the youngsters and ladies.