Master-ful display from Sam in the warmth of Abu Dhabi

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SAM Shibil braved a snow covered course and freezing temperatures at West End on Saturday - a far cry from conditions in the United Arab Emirates where he had tasted success in the 12th Corporate Masters World Final just a few days earlier.

The Halifax town centre mortgage broker, who lives at Hartshead Moor, partnered Harrogate’s Tim Fox to success at the magnificent Abu Dhabi Golf Club, one of the world’s top 100 courses.

The pair, who had won the Manchester qualifier at the De Vere Hotel course at Wychood Park near Crewe in September, scored 42 stableford points in the Middle East and beat the defending champions from Bangkok, Yukol Yingyongkij and Suchart Prumaron, on count back.

The event attracted a truly international field of 40 pairs who qualified from venues including Abu Dhabi, Doha, Dubai, London, Mumbai, Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi and Toronto.

The winner of the Masters at Augusta receives a green jacket and Shibil and Fox were presented with blue versions, styled by leading Italian fashion house Brioni, at a gala dinner after the event.

Shibil said he and Fox had gone to Abu Dhabi to enjoy a five day luxury break in the sunshine and had no real expectations of success.

“We received excellent hopitality, the Corporate Masters team really looked after us,” he said.

The players mixed golf and sightseeing in the run up to the contest and former world number 13 David Howell, twice a member of winning Europe teams in the Ryder Cup, was on hand to gave the players advice.

Shibil’s hopes rose as he got to grips with a course which will host the HSBC Championship late next month, when Martin Kaymer will defend his title against this year’s Major winners Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke as well as Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods.

Shibil said: “The course was made for me. I hit the ball long and I knew if I could avoid trouble I had a fair chance of scoring well.

“In our final practice round we scored 46 points but in the competition itself we had a couple of bad holes. Although we kept going we didn’t think we were in with a chance of winning.”

Success at Abu Dhabi was a poignant one for Shibil, who was born in Basra, Iraq but came to Britain as a Navy officer in 1980.

In a 10-year career in the services, he visited Abu Dhabi when his ship docked in nearby Dubai for servicing, but this was his first trip back to the country for 21 years.

“To see the transformation in the country and its infrastructure was unbelievable. There are now huge, beautiful buildings,” said Shibil.

The highlight of Shibil’s sporting career nearly didn’t happen. After five years as a member at Crow Nest Park - he was Rabbit Captain in 2005 - he had a lengthy spell away from the game for business reasons until returning at West End last year.

Success in Abu Dhabi crowned a fine year in which he won the National Brokers’ Cup in Majorca and a Halifax-Huddersfield Union Rabbits President’s Day competition at Malton and Norton. He also won Tom Coulter’s West End captain’s away day event at Selby and came runner-up in the 36 holes Captain’s Day competition.

Now he is hoping that as defending champions he and Fox, a senior national manager at Friends Life, will be invited back to next year’s World Final without having to qualify.

Up to then he is happy to keep ticking over in the winter weather at the Norton Tower club.

Shibil was not going to let down his Winter League partner Kevin Crowley on Saturday and although they turned up to find that the event was called off, they still took to the course in several layers of clothing.

“We were on winter greens covered in ice but we played up to the 16th and had a good laugh,” said Shibil.