Othman Almulla, Saudi Arabia’s first professional golfer, is a man on a mission. The 33-year-old trailblazer left the amateur ranks last year to tee it up as a pro – in the Saudi International no less. Life in the big league has been tough so far, but the 33-year-is driven by more than just results on the course.
This is his opportunity to inspire the next generation of young Saudi golfers. His personal targets are important, but he’s determined to pave the way for others, so they can enjoy the same game he loves so much.
We speak to the pioneering pro ahead of another big season…
RSNG When did you start playing golf?
OTHMAN ALMULLA, SAUDI’s FIRST PRO GOLFER ‘I used to be an avid footballer and trained with one of the football clubs in Saudi Arabia. One summer, when I was 14, I got Bs instead of As. My punishment was no football for the summer, which was a catastrophe for me at the time since I was playing five to six times a week.’
‘One of my expat friends suggested we play golf. It became something I did to pass the time. By the end of the summer I was pushing everyone to come and play with me.’
RSNG In your first event as a pro golfer, you played with one of the game’s best ever players – Ernie Els. What was that like?
OA ‘The 2019 Saudi Invitational was my first event as a professional golfer. I obviously didn’t do as well as I would like [rounds of 80 and 81], but it was an unbelievable experience to get that taste of European Tour life.’
‘I played with Andy Sullivan and Ernie. I was like a sponge that week, trying to take it all in and trying to represent myself in the best way I could. The golf wasn’t what I wanted that week, but there are many more weeks to come. To get to spend some time with Ernie, who’s a legend of the game of golf and still doing amazing things in the golf world, was amazing.’
‘I never would have dreamed of going on this journey or that we would be playing a European Tour event in Saudi’
RSNG It wasn’t your first European Tour event was it? You were able to call upon some important experience?
OA ‘The last European Tour event I’d played before that was the 2010 Abu Dhabi Championship, as an amateur. I got a sponsor’s invite to play in that event and it was unbelievable.’
‘I also played at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2007. I never would have dreamed of going on this journey. I never imagined that we would be playing a European Tour event in Saudi.’
RSNG Fast forward a year, and where are you at now?
OA ‘I learned a lot that first year as a professional golfer, getting my feet wet. I got the opportunity to play in a couple of other European Tour events and I played on the MENA Tour, then I went to the UK and played some EuroPro Tour events. It’s been amazing.’
‘I played really well in the last event of the year on the MENA Tour. I made the cut on the number and shot 65 on the final round – so I went from last to 23rd. I need to use that as a springboard and build on that this year.’
RSNG It’s obvious how much of a buzz golf gives you, but what do you enjoy away from the game?
OA ‘I like to go and see nature. I love to go hiking and be outside. I’ve just come back from a city in the north of Saudi Arabia called Al-Ula, where there’s an amazing UNESCO Heritage Site.’
‘I’m a massive sports fan, too. I’m a big Manchester United fan. I know it’s a tough time to be that at the minute but we had a lot of success for a very long time, so it’s OK. We’re restructuring as they say.’
‘I was also lucky to get a ticket to the boxing - Anthony Joshua versus Andy Ruiz Jr It was unbelievable to see how many people came from all around the world to watch the fight. I went to the first international tournament to be played in the Kingdom too, the Diriyah Tennis Cup.’
RSNG Do you set yourself goals now that you’ve turned professional?
OA ‘Yes, and hopefully I can start chasing some of these. I want to earn my way onto some of the big Tours. The big goal in the next couple of years is to be an Olympian – that would be amazing. I’m working really hard towards that. The sky’s the limit.’
‘I’m happy to do my thing under the radar at the minute until I get the opportunity to let my golf game speak for myself’
RSNG You must have a good head start on qualification for the Olympics, or have you inspired a new generation of Saudi golfers?
OA ‘There are some really good players, guys like Saud Al Sharif and Abdulrahman Al Mansour. I’m attached to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi, which is an unbelievable facility. I’m blessed to be in the position I am.’
‘I spend my time there and at my training base in Dubai. Being around a lot of other professional golfers to try and gain experience and to practice and compete the right way is so important.’
‘I’m happy to do my thing under the radar at the minute until I get the opportunity to let my golf game speak for myself. I’m enjoying the ride.’
RSNG So the future for golf in Saudi looks bright?
OA ‘There are a number of supremely talented players coming up behind. We want more representation. That’s the mandate of Golf Saudi – to grow the game of golf and give talented players the platform to go and reach their dreams.’
‘I’m happy to have my teammates; the more the merrier. I’m happy to welcome them when they make that jump and hopefully they can learn from the experiences that I had and we can grow together.’
WHAT NEXT? Read about the saxophone player who regularly trounces US presidents on the golf course, in our exclusive interview with Kenny G.
Then, watch Othman in action during an exhibition match alongside Ernie Els, Amy Boulden and Maha Haddioui at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Saudi Arabia.