Balmaseda clinches MENA Tour title with eagle in playoff

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Balmaseda with the trophy.

The 44-year-old Spaniard produced a spectacular approach to hit the green in two at the par-5, 18th and holed the 18-foot putt, beating England’s Luke Joy, who had eagled the same hole in regulation to force a playoff at six-under.

Both players birdied the first two extra holes to extend play, but the Spaniard, who closed with a 70, atoned for his bogey-bogey finish in regulation with a solid putt in a nerve-racking finish.

Joy, a two-time Tour winner, had lost another play-off a couple of weeks ago to amateur Rayhan Thomas at the Dubai Creek Open.

Thomas continued his brilliant run as he carded a 71 after making the turn at two-over to finish in a tie for third at five-under. Max Williams of England, Antonio Costa of Chile and the Swedish duo of Fredrik Lindblom and Per Barth also joined him on that score.

“I am absolutely delighted. It feels special to win one for the family as I am one of the MENA Golf Tour’s ambassadors,” said Balmaseda after receiving the trophy from Khalid Zarouni, president of Dubai Sports City.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the Tour, and Chris Brown, general manager, The Els Club Dubai, were also present.

“I try to be relaxed in play-offs and that attitude paid off. Of the seven play-offs that I have been involved in my professional career, I have won six. So, the confidence was there,” added Balmaseda, who has two runner-up finishes on the MENA Tour. “Luke is a great player and I needed to focus hard.”

England’s Joy, who closed with a 71, felt he had his chances but didn’t play great on the front nine, which he covered in two-over par.

“It was nice to finish with an eagle and force a play-off. I think it’s time I start winning the trophies again. I am knocking on the door and hope it will open soon,” said Joy.

In one of the major highlights of the final round, England’s Joshua White showed impressive powers of recovery after a dreadful start to his final round.

The 2014 MENA Golf Tour Order of Merit champion responded to an early triple bogey on the par-5 fifth with three straight birdies before making the turn at one-over.

Six birdies and an eagle highlighted his sublime back-nine that he completed in six-under 30 en route to a closing 67 that propelled him to tied eighth on four-under par.

“It was kind of a roller coaster round,” said White, who holds the record for the lowest 18-hole score on the Tour, a nine-under 62 he shot at the 2014 event in Al Ain.

India’s Thomas took the leading amateur honours while the Moroccan duo of Faycal Serghini and Ahmed Marjan shared the leading MENA Division professional award after they finished on one-under-par for the tournament.

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Man on a mission: Lee Corfield will be looking for his fifth title

Starting the day four shots off the pace, Corfield strung together the tournament’s low score to reach seven-under for the tournament, two shots ahead of fellow Englishman Luke Joy and Sweden’s Per Barth.

Overnight joint leader Rayhan Thomas of India slipped to tied fourth on four-under after carding a 73, a triple bogey on the 10th hole and two three-putt bogeys after that spoiling what was turning into an impressive card on a demanding golf course that played long and featured some tough pin positions.

Spain’s Carlos Balmaseda, Oscar Hertzberg of Sweden and England’s Max Williams completed the group on four-under as seven players, including Shahid Javed of Pakistan and Craig Hinton, who shared the overnight lead, moved into a tie for eighth a further shot adrift on three-under.

“I played some good, solid golf. I made six birdies and five bogeys in the first round, but today I kept the bogeys off my card, which is always the key to going low,” said Corfield, a four-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour, who has been struggling with back issues and played a limited schedule this year.

“You never know what tomorrow holds, but I feel like I am playing nicely. Will see how things pan out.”

In-form Thomas started strong, making three birdies in his first four holes, but hit the roadblock on the 10th when a wayward drive went right into the desert. He tried to hack it out from there but went deeper into the sand, and then had to declare his ball unplayable.

“I was cruising along nicely having got off to another great start, but one bad hole changed the whole look of the card. Take that away and I think I played really well. I am just three shots off the pace and very much in with chance,” said the Dubai-based 16-year-old amateur.

Morocco’s Faycal Serghini shot a 71 to return to the top of the leaderboard in the MENA Division on one-under, two shots ahead of compatriot Ahmed Marjan who stumbled to a 77 after opening with a 68.

“I think I played really well. Things could have been even better, but made a bogey-bogey finish, which was a bit disappointing,” said Serghini, who is coming off a tendon injury in his left hand that kept him out of competitive golf for two months.

Playing in his first season on the MENA Golf Tour, Australia’s Ryan Laird provided the highlight of the day when he aced the par-3, 17th for the first hole-in-one of his career.

The 22-year-old from Melbourne smashed his six-iron from 221 yards to achieve the feat as he returned a second-round 72 to move to tied 33rd from overnight 44th spot.

England’s Andrew Marshall, who won last week’s Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open, carded back-to-back 71s for a share of 15th along with his compatriot Zane Scotland, an 11-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour.

The cut was made at three-over 147 with 47 professionals and 13 amateurs making it to the final round.

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Young Arab golfers in the UAE introduced to golf

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The initiative aims to bring more Arab juniors into the sport.

The programme, which is also being supported by the European Tour and DP World Tour Championship Host Venue Jumeirah Golf Estates, will see specialist coaches from Golf DXB host ‘introduction to golf’ sessions.

Over 3,000 students at UAE National Schools including American Academy Al Mizar, School of Research Science, Al Itihad Al Mamzar, Sheikh Rashid School For Boys, Al Itihad Jumeirah and Al Khaleej School will be engaged.

Around 180 students will also visit Jumeirah Golf Estates for the star-studded DP World Tour Championship in November where they will be given a tour of the facilities before watching the tournament.










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