Are you going to be able to play? I ask, concerned.
I only have two rounds, the USGA said I need eight to compete!
What are you going to do? I ask.
I found some rounds I have logged, so it’s ok - but I realised I’ve only played 9 times in the last year. Normally I’ve played 60 or 70 tournament rounds so it’s a bit stressful.
Adem Wahbi, a fiercely competitive golfer on the EDGA and G4D tours, is on the other end of the phone. Last year Adem paused his career to focus on his mental health and by his standards he’s barely swung a club since. I ask how he’s feeling.
I'm happy, you know, it's stressful because it's been a long time since I played golf at this level but I’m excited as well. I'm not gonna be home in May not gonna be home in June not gonna be home in July. I'm excited. My head doesn't really know what's going to happen, but it's normal and it's nice stress.
The motorway in the background tells me Adem is on his way from Belgium to London for a practice round at Woburn. It’s the scene of his return to the pro game and the first instalment of a revolutionary new schedule for adaptive golf.
It’s the first ever Open, it’s never been done. I saw a couple of Americans are coming over. I think the top 10 in the world are there.
When I started playing disabled golf, it was a lot of pity and it wasn't really what we were looking for you know. If there was a tournament they always put it in April because that’s when no one is playing the course.
Now sponsors are involved, the R&A is involved, the USGA is involved, I mean it's getting huge. Professional players know about this tournament now so I feel like it just brings more to golf, to disabled people and to me I guess.
Adem is right, this year the G4D will have no fewer than 9 elevated events, most of which are linked to professional DP World Tour events. The world is beginning to take notice. I ask Adem how his game is feeling?
The swing is completely changed, and, uh, yeah, the mind too, because usually I didn't really work for golf. It wasn't as serious as it is right now. I’ve realised that I can't keep trying to do it with the feel. So now it's way more work. I changed coach - I worked only with one coach. Normally every week I change my swing now I only work on one swing.
And how are you feeling in your head?
I ain't gonna lie, my head is stressed, totally stressed because I know it's a long time ago and you know I've been struggling with golf for like the two past years so my head doesn't really know what's going to happen.
Isn’t it your caddies job to help with that? I ask, knowing that Luke Davies, MANORS founder, will be on Adem’s bag at The Open. Luke and Adem have become incredibly close but I suggest it might be better to get someone who can actually read a green to be his caddy.
When I play golf, I need to have fun between the shots, but I need someone that will be serious too. I need someone who I could laugh with and you know, just have a nice moment and I felt like Luke was like the best person that I knew for that. He’s my brother.
This morning he sent me a message. He was like, yeah do you have a note where you have all your yardages? He takes it seriously. I love the fact that he's Caddying for me.
It’s also going to be the first tournament where you’re officially signed as a MANORS athlete, how does that feel?
You know, for me it's as if we signed a long time ago. But it's cool the fact that it's official and yeah, it's family you know. I don't really see it as a professional thing where it's business it just makes family official. I'm so happy to be part of of this story since the beginning.
MANORS has their own direction. I feel like back in the days, it was really good, but it was trendy, basically. The new collection is way more professional. The brand just grew up.
We’re not the only ones. Having played just 9 competitive rounds this year, and clearly suffering from nerves, Adem is about to compete in the biggest G4D tournament ever. Talk about facing your fears. We could not be more proud to sponsor him at exactly this time. I wrap up our interview by asking a question I sense could be difficult.
What does success looks like for Adem in 2023? He answers proudly:
The goal is to be happy about myself. If I lose or if I don't finish first or whatever, I want to go out there and play with attitude. I have a chance to play golf all over the world, the chance to travel. You know outside of golf, I'm not frustrated at all and I'm not nervous, but when I'm on a golf course, I change and, you know how sport is, it gets into my head. So from the moment I start the first tournament the goal is to focus just on that tournament and not even on that tournament - I have to focus shot by shot and that will be the best achievement that I can do.