Rayhan Thomas created history, becoming the first amateur to win a MENA Golf Tour event when he claimed the Dubai Creek Open in a playoff on Wednesday,
Starting the day tied for the lead with England’s Jake Shepherd on 10-under, Thomas closed with a 69 to reach 12-under for the tournament, forcing a playoff with England’s Luke Joy, who returned a brilliant five-under 66.
Thomas bogeyed the first extra hole, the 18th, while Joy had to settle for a triple bogey after hitting his approach from the bunker into the water, the playoff drama providing a fitting climax to the tour’s landmark 50th event.
Playing on a special invitation from Darren Clarke, the patron of the MENA Golf Tour, Australia’s Benjamnin Eccles produced the highlight of the day, firing a sizzling eight-under 63 to match the course record, jointly held by Lee Westwood and Clarke himself.
“I am really delighted with my efforts. Winning it in the 50th event of the tour and too on my home course made it special,” said Thomas after receiving the winner’s trophy from Adel Zarouni, vice chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation.
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, Chris May, CEO of Dubai Golf, and Patrick Morrow, the club captain, were also present at the presentation ceremony.
Thomas, who finished runner-up to Shepherd last year, insisted taking a relaxed attitude into the final round worked wonders. “I was pretty calm out there and focused on one shot at a time.
“The only anxious moment I had was at the 18th when my approach shot the rocks, nearly ending up in the water, but I managed to save par to get into the playoff,” he said.
“Overall, I played steady golf and holed some nice putts, including one for birdie on the 15th from about 12 feet. It feels nice to get the job the done this time around,” said the 16-year-old prodigy, who hails from the southern Indian state of Kerala.
England’s Joy, placed third overnight at seven-under, staged a compelling fightback, but a wayward drive on the first extra hole that landed in a bunker cost him the title.
“The lie was pretty bad. I had just five per cent chance of getting over the water. I couldn’t,” said Joy, who won the Dubai Creek Open in 2014.
Playing in his very first MENA Golf Tour event, Australia’s Eccles made his presence felt, equaling the course record.
“It is an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as Ryder Cup captain Clarke and Lee Westwood in some corner of the world,” said the 21-year-old from Melbourne, who reeled seven birdies, including four in a row from seventh, an eagle and a bogey.
“I am very happy with my efforts. I birdied the first and then eagled the fourth and that kind of set the tone for the day,” said Eccles, who will be competing in the European Tour Qualifying School next week.
Elsewhere, Faycal Serghini of Morocco finished on level par for the tournament to win the MENA Division for professionals while Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla took the honours in the amateur division on four over 217.
The MENA Golf Tour will travel to Al Badia Golf Club for the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open, starting on Monday.
Final scores (par-71)
1.Rayhan Thomas (India) – 12 (65 67 69) – playoff|
2.Luke Joy (England) – 12 (66 69 660
3.Benjamin Eccles (Australia) – 10 (73 67 63
Rayhan Thomas (India)
Leading MENA Division stars:
Faycal Serghini (Morocco) – Professional
Othman Almullah (Saudi Arabia) – Amateur
Source : Mena Golf Tour