DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am place up for grabs in 'Junior Luckiest Ball on Earth' initiative

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The eagerly awaited Luckiest Ball on Earth series kicks off later this month and, for the first time, junior golfers across the UAE will be vying for a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest names in golf in the star-studded DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am.

The initiative is another indication of DP World’s determination to grow the game at grassroots level as part of their title sponsorship of the European Tour’s season-ending tournament.

The Junior Luckiest Ball on Earth, which has been introduced as a new initiative aimed at helping to grow the junior game in the UAE, will this year be based on Emirates Golf Federation Order of Merit events with 20 girls and 20 boys winning a place in the Grand Final set to take place on the Fire course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on October 28.

The juniors that qualify will consist of the top 10 boys and 10 girls from the season ending Gross Order of Merit and the top 10 from the Net Order of Merit which will be declared after the Al Ain Junior Open on April 28.

One winner – girl or boy – will then win a place in the ‘Luckiest Ball on Earth’ team, alongside the adult man and lady winner, where they will rub shoulders with the likes of defending DP World Tour Championship winner Jon Rahm, former World No.1 Rory McIlroy and Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am on the Earth course on Tuesday, November 13.

Junior Girls section LR

The event is the annual curtain raiser for the European Tour’s season-ending grand finale which takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from Thursday, November 15, to Sunday, November 18.

“The Luckiest Ball on Earth grows bigger and better every year and we are thrilled to be giving junior golfers in the UAE an opportunity to play with some of their heroes,” said Nick Tarratt, Dubai-based Director of European Tour International.

“We wish all the competitors the very best of luck as they aim to secure a spot in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am and send our thanks and appreciation to the clubs and the EGF for continuing to support this amazing initiative.”

The DP World Tour Championship sees the top 60 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai competing for a prize fund of US$8 million.

The Luckiest Ball on Earth competition has proven a sure hit with the UAE’s amateur golfers since the initiative was first launched in 2011.

The annual competition has traditionally been open to all golfers aged 18 or over who hold an Official Club Handicap recognised by the EGF (maximum 28 for men and 36 for ladies).

The Al Ain Junior Open takes place on April 28 at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club with entries closing on April 25. Secure your place for this amazing opportunity now.

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Five straight birdies propel Jordan Spieth to first-round lead at Masters

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Jordan Spieth took control at the Masters with a stunning first round.

Reigning British Open champion Jordan Spieth will draw upon memories of his epic 2015 Masters victory and his nightmare 2016 back-nine Sunday collapse in trying to win another green jacket.

The 24-year-old American birdied five consecutive holes starting on the par-5 13th in firing a six-under par 66 and seizing a two-stroke lead after Thursday’s opening round of the Masters.

Fourth-ranked Spieth says his best and worst memories at Augusta National will inspire him over the final 54 holes.

“I’ll always have demons out here, but I’ll always have a tremendous amount of confidence,” Spieth said.

“Once you win here, you have an advantage over anybody who hasn’t. And there can be positives and negatives to both the demons and the confidence.

“So it’s just about playing the golf course for what you get, recognizing what the tendencies are this course brings and what my own tendencies are when under the gun.”

Spieth did match the Masters tournament record of 18-under 270 set by Tiger Woods in 1997 to win three years ago.

But two years ago he squandered a five-shot lead on the final nine holes – a quadruple-bogey at the par-3 12th helping England’s Danny Willett win the green jacket, Spieth having to put in on him.

Spieth added the Claret Jug last year for his third major crown, a haul that also includes the 2015 US Open, and said he felt the Sunday tension on Thursday but responded with a run of five straight birdies on the back nine before a closing bogey.

“Today I felt the Sunday-type pressure of leading the Masters on the middle of that back nine, and adjusted extremely well,” Spieth said.

Spieth, who eagled the par-5 eighth after bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes left him on level par, says being in front helps make Augusta National play easier, all 2016 evidence aside.

“If you get off to a good start, you’re in control of your own fate, versus needing a little bit of help,” Spieth said.

“This course is a lot easier to play if you feel like you can just hit the center of the greens and wait for your chances. You want to take that approach starting out, but if you start well, it’s easier to stick to that game plan.”

Spieth warns that the course will send everybody’s scores skyrocketing on the weekend and players have to prepare for that mentally.

“On the weekend, it backs you up. It backs everybody up,” he said. “And you’ve got to be prepared for that.

“So I imagine there will be plenty of times, if not from early on tomorrow, that I don’t lead this tournament anymore. Just things happen in this sport. I’m going to try and control what I can control and that’s about it.”

Spieth credited iron shots as much as putts to his crucial back-nine birdie binge.

“It’s nice that I was able to shoot a score like this,” he said. “I felt like I putted well, but I didn’t putt amazingly well. I just hit some really solid iron shots on that back nine to go with just some solid, inside of 10-12 feet, putting.”

While most players would see the 72-hole showdown as one-quarter done, Spieth says he looks at the Masters as a six-round fight.

“This tournament often feels like there’s six rounds with how the weekend grind is,” Spieth said. “Really any major. I feel like I’m kind of one round down out of six, so I’m not getting ahead of myself. It’s just it was a really good start.”

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Tiger Woods is one-over after 'awesome' return to Augusta National

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Tiger Woods is still in contention at the Masters.

Tiger Woods returned to the acid test of Augusta National on Thursday with a one-over par 73 in the first round of the Masters, declaring the experience “awesome”.

The 42-year-old, who calls himself a walking miracle less than 12 months after spinal fusion surgery, produced a pair of top-five finishes on the PGA Tour to fuel expectations that he could seize a fifth green jacket — and a 15th major title — this week.

But Woods endured his share of frustrations in his first Masters appearance since 2015 — an absence of a total of 1,089 days.

“This course will test you,” Woods said. “I haven’t played shots like this for a while.”

The 14-time major winner thrilled an enthusiastic gallery with a 10-foot birdie at the third.

But he followed with back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth as he made the turn one-over.

There was more trouble lurking around Amen Corner, where Woods was right off the tee at 11 and his recovery effort squirted right as well en route to another bogey.

A dip in Rae’s Creek at 12 cost him a shot, but he pulled strokes back at 14 and 16 and produced two crisp tee shots at 17 and 18 as he capped his round with a pair of pars.

Woods, who carded a first-round 74 in 2005 on the way to his most recent Masters title, was five off the pace set by
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and American Charlie Hoffman when he walked off the course.

Former champion Zach Johnson, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Australian Marc Leishman were the leaders in the clubhouse on two-under 70.

Leishman, who played alongside Woods, thrived in the spotlight, moving to four-under thorugh 13 holes before finding the water at the par-five 15th on the way to a double bogey.

“We had a good day out there,” Leishman said. “It’s nice playing in front of big crowds, on a stage like this, on a day like today.

“I looked at it as a positive and preparation for later in the week,” he said of playing with Woods. “Hopefully we’re both there on Sunday afternoon.”

While Tiger has drawn the lion’s share of attention this week, the field is packed with an array of in-form players.
An eagle at the par-five eighth took 2015 winner Jordan Spieth to two-under at the turn.

Five-time major-winner Phil Mickelson, his sights set on a fourth green jacket at the age of 47, was at even par through nine holes.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, seeking to complete a career Grand Slam with a first Masters title, was one-under through eight.

Spain’s Sergio Garcia, however, endured a nightmare start in his bid to join Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to successfully defend the Masters crown.

Garcia matched the most strokes needed on any hole in Masters history with his 13 at the par-five 15th — where he hit five consecutive balls in the water.

Tommy Nakajima at the par-five 13th in 1978 and Tom Weiskopf in 1980 on the par-three 12th have also seen 13s on their Masters scorecards.

Garcia signed for a nine-over par 81 tied with amateur Matt Parziale, the Massachusetts firefighter who gained a Masters berth with a win in the Mid-Amateur championship.

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