Dubai-based teenager Rayhan Thomas continued his historic run in the US junior Amateurs on Friday, becoming the first Indian ever to make it to the semi-finals of the tournament that kick-started the remarkable careers of stars like Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
At Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas, the 17-year-old Thomas beat American Ryan Smith 2&1 to set up a semi-final clash with Noah Goodwin, last year’s US Junior Amateur runner-up.
MENA Golf Tour star Thomas, now ranked No1 amateur in India at world No85, is making his tournament debut and has been in fine form over what is a long week comprising two rounds of strokeplay, followed by four rounds of match play so far.
The semi-final was scheduled for late last evening, and if he reaches the final today, it would be a 36-hole affair.
Winner of Scottish Boys Amateurs last year, apart from his historic win at Dubai Creek Classic on the MENA Tour, Thomas hasn’t played many tournaments in the US, but that was not a problem for him.
Asked if he was surprised to make it this far in the tournament, a confident Thomas said: “No, not surprised at all. After stroke play, I knew I had what it takes to maybe win this event.
“I just get my confidence from previous tournaments, and not the fact that I haven’t played in Unites States. But I’ve done well at other tournaments. Last year I did really well and won a professional event on my home tour, the MENA Golf Tour, there.
“Yeah, just confidence of that and the hard work I’ve put in to get here.”
In his match against Smith, Thomas was a hole down until the 11th hole, before winning the 12th, 14th and 17th to emerge triumphant.
Earlier, in his round of 16 match, Thomas eagled the drivable par-4 sixth en route to a resounding 5&4 win over Jake Beber-Frankel of Miami. On the 325-yard hole, he smashed a drive that left him with a 20-footer for eagle.
Thomas started the week with rounds of 72 and 69 to finish tied 19th in the strokeplay phase of the championship, thus qualifying easily among the top 64 who made it to the match play.
Quarterfinalists receive an exemption into next year’s US Junior Amateur, which will be held July 16-21 at the famous Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.