Rayhan Thomas could not hide his sense of disappointment despite his historic run to the semi-finals of the US Junior Amateurs.
In the premier junior tournament, organized by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and previously won by Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, the 17-year-old Dubai-based Thomas became the first Indian to make it to the last four stage before losing to Noah Goodwin in the semis on Friday evening.
No Indian player has ever made it this far in the tournament in the past.
Goodwin, who finished runner-up in the tournament last year, is the No1 player in the US Junior Presidents Cup standings, while Thomas is No1 on the International team.
Friday could have been a dress rehearsal of what could be a future battle when the inaugural Junior Presidents Cup is held September 24-26 in Edison, New Jersey, but the world No27 Goodwin was too good for the world No85 Thomas on the day and won 5&4 to reach his second successive final.
Speaking to Sport360 after the match, Thomas said: “Yeah, there is a slight sense of disappointment, having come so close to playing the final.
“But at the end of the day, I am just happy to be here and I thought that was a good result. I really loved the event and learned a lot. The course was impeccable.
“The people of Kansas were great and it was good to have my mum here with me this week. The USGA really treated us well and gave us an almost US Open-like feel.
“I’d love to be back next year and do better…would love to be holding that trophy one day.”
On the semi-final match, Thomas refused to offer any excuses, and simply accepted he lost to a better player on the day.
“I thought Noah played really well. I think he was something like four- or five-under par for the 14 holes we played,” said Thomas, who became the first amateur to win on the MENA Golf Tour last year at the Dubai Creek Classic.
“I did not play well, and he played well – that was the only reason why I lost.”
Last year, Thomas had told Sport360 that his big aim by the end of the year would be to get physically fit to withstand the rigours of playing and walking 36 holes, that seem to the norm in amateur tournaments.
At Flint Hills National Golf Club this week, he played as many as nine rounds in seven days, including two practice rounds, and was pleased with the way he felt at the end of it.
“It was a long week and it was tough. Match play golf is very intense, so it was physically and mentally draining,” Thomas added.
“But I thought I did pretty well. To reach the semi-finals of such an event you have to be mentally and physically fit, and I felt I handled it much better than I would have say a year ago.”
Thomas now takes a week off before playing the Western Amateur in Chicago, one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the US which will feature each of the top-10 ranked players in the field this year.
Jordan Spieth completed a second round of one-under-par 69 on Friday to sit in the lead at six-under at the halfway stage in the British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Having been joint leader overnight at five-under, the American had an eventful day in miserable wet and windy conditions, shooting an eagle, three birdies and four bogeys.
Spieth is two strokes ahead of compatriot Matt Kuchar who followed his opening 65 with a 71 earlier in the day.
England’s Ian Poulter remains firmly in contention after signing for a 70 to lie on three under par, with US Open champion Brooks Koepka also three-under after dropping back from a share of the overnight lead with his 72.
Richie Ramsay of Scotland is two under par, while 2014 Open champion Rory McIlroy is in a small group on one-under.
Provided by AFP Sport
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.