He becomes the third golfer after UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh and Morocco’s Ahmed Marjan to receive the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation support aimed at recognising and promoting young talent in the region, who have achieved creditable results on the MENA Golf Tour, regardless of their nationality.
Both Al Musharrekh and Marjan have since turned professional, with the latter becoming the first MENA national to win a MENA Golf Tour event, a feat he achieved at the 2014 Ras Al Khaimah Classic in a sign of the times in an ever-changing world.
“It’s great honour to have the support of the foundation, one that will take my confidence to a whole new level. Getting recognized and noticed for our work is something we all relish,” said Thomas, who was crowned number one golfer in the UAE after topping the Emirates Golf Federation’s Order of Merit in 2015.
“From my experience on the MENA Golf Tour, I can tell that I can compete with professionals. My game is in better shape than last year. I am striking the ball better. Playing on the tour has allowed me to better my course management skills.
“This (support) is certainly the best thing that could have happened to me now, when I am ready to plunge into serious golf training for a fulfilling golf career.”
The 16-year-old prodigy, who was born and brought up in Dubai, has won virtually every amateur title up for grabs on the domestic circuit.
And Thomas nearly broke through for his maiden victory on the MENA Golf Tour at the 2015 Dubai Creek Open before losing out in a three-man playoff.
“Our aim is to encourage and nurture young talent who have shown great promise by racking up some really good performances on the MENA Golf Tour,” said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi.
“Rayhan’s achievements speak volumes about his drive to be a golfing star. If he has been acknowledged as an extraordinary talent on the (MENA) tour, it is because of hard work and total dedication to the game. He brings special energy to any event he plays.
“I wish him the very the best and hope he has a great future ahead of him.”
Zane Scotland eagled the first extra hole to win the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in a three-way play-off at Tower Links Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old from London stuffed his approach shot to within 15 feet and holed the ensuing putt at the par-5 18th to seal his 11th title on the MENA Golf Tour after finishing tied with overnight leader Craig Hinton and Miles Tunnicliff at 10-under par in regulation play.
“I am delighted to win another title on the tour – and winning it in a play-off under pressure makes it extra special,” said Scotland. “It was one of those days when I just couldn’t build any momentum because I wasn’t making any putts.
“It was kind of very boring golf. I knew I had to stay patient and focused on every shot which I tried to do,” added Scotland, who carded a final round 70.
Starting the day one shot in front, Hinton also felt he failed to summon his A Game when it mattered the most.
“Basically, nothing went in and nothing went my way, I just scrambled to hold it together,” said the 27-year-old from Thame. “It’s my fourth runner-up finish on the MENA Golf Tour and this one, in particular, will haunt me as I led from the start to the playoff.
“There is always hope for tomorrow. Hopefully, I will be able to get over the line in some other event on the tour this season. Let’s see how things pan out.”
Tunnicliff, a two-time winner on the European Tour, hit what he called a perfect shot from the bunker on the first extra hole, but it took a hard bounce and landed in the lake.
“Maybe I was a bit unlucky, but I am very pleased with the way I played this week. This is my best finish on the tour, which is good,” added the 47-year-old Englishman, who shot a final round 68 to get into the play-off.
His compatriots, Daniel Owen and Stuart Archibald, shared fourth on nine under, one shot ahead of Spain’s Carlos Balmaseda, who is also a MENA Golf Tour ambassador.
Stephen Dodd, a three-time winner on the European Tour and the 2012 MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit champion, returned a final-round 69 to finish seventh on seven-under as did his playing partner Andrew Marshall, also a European Tour veteran, settled for a share of 10th after carding a 71.
Joe Heraty made the biggest final day charge, firing a bogey-free 66 – the best score of the week – to climb to joint eighth on six under along with fellow Englishman Luke Joy.
Young Rayhan Thomas closed with a level-par 72 to win the amateur division with a creditable score of three-under 213, three clear of Scotland’s Ben Alexander, who returned a brilliant four-under 68 in the final round, as Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla settled for third a further shot back.
Rayhan, who opened with a 69 on Monday, reeled off three birdies in his final four holes for his fifth victory in the division since joining the tour in 2013.
At Tower Links Golf Club Wednesday, Craig Hinton started the day in a share of the lead with Scotland, but finished one shot ahead of his rival after a second-round 68 helped him reach nine-under par for the tournament.
Fellow Englishman Scotland, who backed up his opening 67 with a 69, was second at eight-under par, while Spain’s Carlos Balmaseda matched Hinton’s 68 to occupy solo third on seven-under.
England’s Daniel Owen carded his personal best 67 in a MENA Golf Tour event to haul himself back into contention at six-under par, where he was joined by Tunnicliff, who added a 70 to his opening-round 68.
A three-time runner-up on the MENA Tour, Hinton sounded confident going the full distance this time around.
“I have been driving the ball well and my putting has been pretty solid,” said the Englishman, who mixed five birdies with a lone bogey at the sixth hole.
“It’s just that I need to work a bit more on my iron and wedge play which is kind of so-so.”
Scotland, who made eight birdies and three bogeys in his 67 on Monday, kept the mistakes away, although the birdie count dropped to three.
Owen, the 26-year-old Bahrain-based Englishman, is also seeking his maiden win on the Tour and he did his chances no harm with a bogey-free round that featured five birdies.
“I played really well. Gave myself a plenty of opportunities out there and holed some nice putts, especially on the back nine,” said Owen, who produced the highlight of the day on the 12th, draining a long 45-foot birdie putt.
“I have been striking the ball really good. It’s just that my putting felt so solid and decisive and that made the difference.”
Top UAE amateur Rayhan Thomas carded a level-par 72 stay in the frame for a strong finish at three under. The young prodigy raced to four-under after his first 10 holes, but a wayward drive on the 14th resulted in a double-bogey and undid all the good work.
Tied for 11th place overall, Thomas still leads the amateur division by a four shots over Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla, who carded a second round 73.
The half-way cut was made at five-over-par with 51 professionals and nine amateurs making it to the final round. The first group will go out at 7am today.