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NEWS: Asylum Fears Cost Iraqi Golfer Asia-Pacific Amateur Start

Amer Radee

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND | Putting on a major amateur golf championship at a different course venue in the Asia-Pacific region each year is no easy task, and one complication that often comes up for Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship organizers is procuring visas for some of the 120-odd players who are invited to compete.

The 2017 event was no exception, with one invitee, Amer Radee of Iraq, twice being denied a visa from New Zealand immigration authorities even though he had been confirmed in the field and had his flights booked. Radee, who has been living in Jordan as a refugee and has won that kingdom’s national golf championship seven times, also had a sponsor, an Iraqi plastic surgeon residing in Sydney, Australia, named Laith Barnouti. But New Zealand officials feared that Radee would attempt to seek asylum in their homeland and stay if they admitted him.

That decision did not please Dr. David Cherry, the chairman of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, which had accepted Iraq as a member only last January. “I played with Amer in Jordan a year ago and he can seriously play,” Cherry said. “He could play at a scratch. I wanted him to play in this tournament and show people what he can do. Unfortunately he didn’t get in. It’s disappointing.”

Cherry is determined not to let the same thing happen next fall, when the championship is contested at the Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore. “We’ve got 12 months to work on that, and I am confident we will get Amer there,” he explained. “We want to see these people participating and get the message back home to countries with political turmoil that there is a normal world outside, and through golf, we can enhance that.”

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