The Dubai-based 17-year-old is at Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, South Carolina, just minutes away from arguably one of the most famous golf courses in the world, Augusta National Golf Club.
Thomas, India’s No1 amateur player who won multiple Emirates Golf Federation Orders of Merit, is taking part in the Junior Invitational, considered by many as the most prestigious junior golf tournament in the world.
Thomas is one of the 54 leading junior players of the world invited to play the 54-hole tournament, which starts on Thursday.
On a high after playing three European Tour events in quick succession earlier in the year, and becoming only the second UAE-based amateur ever to make the cut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Thomas is excited about his next tournament.
“It is a great honour to be invited for the tournament. The Junior Invitational has a very strict invitation policy, and I am happy that I made the field,” said Thomas, who broke into the top-100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, before dropping down to 123 this week.
Last year was outstanding for Thomas, winning the Scottish Boys’ Stroke Play Championship, before his much-talked about triumph at the Dubai Creek Open on the MENA Golf Tour.
“Obviously, I want to do well in the tournament, because this is more my age group, and these are my peers who are the best in the world (the tournament is only open to players aged 19 and under),” said Thomas.
“But I will start on Thursday just as I have started every tournament in the past – go there with no expectation and just try to play to the best of my abilities.
“I have worked very hard over this past one month with my coach Justin Parsons and I am feeling good about my game.”
Having had a couple of outings at the stunning Tom Fazio layout, Thomas was all praise for the 7437-yard Sage Valley.
“It probably is one of the best golf courses that I have ever played. It is just a beautiful setting, almost as beautiful as Augusta National. They have tried to give it a similar set-up too,” said Thomas.
“The greens are lightning quick and fairways are tight. Like at The Masters, the premium really is where you hit your shots and knowing where to miss it. It’s going to be a fantastic challenge.”
Thomas starts his first round in the company of American Nicholas Lyerly and Korean Jeewon Park at 18:10 UAE time on Thursday.
After months of hard work, the UAE 15-and-under National Golf Team found themselves on top of the podium collecting the Overall Team Gold Medal.
Leading the way for the side was Rashid Al Emadi at the Riyadh Golf Club as he captured the gold medal in the Individual Category.
The UAE 18-and-under side also finished in fifth position. But it was Al Emadi who stole the show with gold and helped his team to the Overall Team Gold Medal with rounds of 85-87-85 – amassing a championship total of 257.
That was enough to ensure the UAE claimed top spot, beating Oman and Bahrain.
Speaking after his victory, Rashid said: “My short game practice over the past few weeks really helped. My driver was working well but it was the focus around the greens that made the difference this weekend. I’d like to thank my team and coaches for pushing me to do well. We are so happy to have won this medal for the UAE and I can’t wait to share this with my friends and family.”
Obaid Al Heloo also enjoyed a solid weekend, claiming the bronze medal prize in the Individual Category with rounds of 90-89-84 for a championship total of 263.
Rounding off the team was Khaled Al Mutawa – who finished eighth.
The under-18 UAE National Team finished in fifth overall with Mohammed Al Hajeri, Mohammed Abdulla Saeed and Rashid Al Qubaisi making up their side.
“The Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) is very proud of our teams,” said national team manager and Emirates Golf Federation secretary general, Khalid Mubarak Al Shamsi.
“All of these boys are a product of the National Junior Development Program and this shows that our pathway and programs will continue producing young talent. This is just the start for these boys. We are looking to keep them focused and continue to develop their skills.”
Congrats to the U15 National Golf Team on winning the Gold at the GCC Golf Champs. Rashid Al Emadi won Gold in the Individual Category. pic.twitter.com/LGUNB31hvR— Emirates Golf Fed. (@EGFuaegolf) April 15, 2017
On Monday, the UAE 18 & Under and 15 & Under National Golf Teams traveled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to participate in the 2017 GCC Golf Championship.
With the championship rounds from April 11-13, the teams will have two practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday in order to finalise their preparations.
The teams have spent the last four weeks training out of the Jumeirah Golf Estates – European Tour Performance Institute (JGE – ETPI) preparing for this championship event.
“Scoring is the most important part of playing in the GCC Championships,” said National Team Manager and Emirates Golf federation Secretary General, Khalid Mubarak Al Shamsi. “Recovering from mistakes and keeping the ball in play will help our team place in the top spots for this championship. We have some young talent and we have prepared well for this event, it is now time to put that hard work to the test.”
The Riyadh Golf Course will provide the young golfers with a good challenge. Its undulating terrains and wide fairways will be a test for both teams.
Representing the 18 & Under National Team will Mohammed Al Hajeri, Mohammed Abdulla Saeed, and Rashid Al Qubaisi. Al Qubaisi will be playing in his first international event but leading the way for the UAE will be Al Hajeri.
Al Hajeri is just coming off competing in the GCC Golf Championship for the UAE Senior Team where the team place third and collected the Bronze Medal in Bahrain.
Leading the way for the 15 & Under National Golf Team will be Rashid Al Emadi. Al Emadi has had a strong 2016 – 2017 golf season and has really focused on his short game in order to keep his scores low.
Obaid Al Heloo and Khalid Al Mutawa will be looking to add support in the Team Category.
To follow the teams’ progression and to keep updated with UAE golf news follow the EGF on social media.