Birdies and eagles flew in flurries as the English trio of Max Williams, Daniel Owen, Paul Dwyer and Spain’s Francisco Perez shot matching six-under 66 to take a share of the lead after the opening round of the MENA Tour’s Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Tower Links Golf Club Monday.
Between them, the foursome notched up 23 birdies and four eagles – two each by Williams and Owen – against seven bogeys to sit atop a tight leaderboard, one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Jesper Alm, who mixed six birdies with a bogey.
Lee Corfield, a four-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour, overcame an early bogey on the first to shoot a four-under 68 that left him in a seven-way tie for sixth as his fellow Englishman Craig Hinton, winner of the 2016 MENA Tour’s Order of Merit title, shared 13th place a further shot adrift. Also on 69 in a four-man group was Spain’s Leo Lilja, who won the season-opening Palmeraie Country Club Casablanca Open in March.
“I played really well and very pleased with my day’s work. The course is just fantastic and in great condition,” said Williams, who drilled his nine-iron to six feet for an eagle on the 18th, apart from his first one on the fifth hole.
“It’s always nice to get an eagle, let alone two. Just kind of everything fell together, ball striking, putting and ball control.”
Bahrain-based Owen lit up his opening round with five birdies and two eagles (on the fifth and 13th) against three bogeys to put himself in contention for his maiden win on the MENA Tour.
Dwyer flew off the gate in style, making three birdies in a row and kept the momentum rolling all through, dropping just one bogey while Spain’s Perez picked up eight shots, including five on the front nine, against two bogeys on a day when 34 players broke par.
Also, Welsh ace Stephen Dodd, who plies his trade on the European Senior Tour, carded a 70 while England’s Andrew Marshall returned a 71. UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh started with a four-over par 76.
Dubai-based Michael Harradine (71) rolled in three back-nine birdies after making the turn at
two over to hit the front in the amateur division, two ahead of a four-man group that included Saleh Al Kaabi.
Get into the swing of things and showcase your golfing skills by testing yourself at next month’s Yas Links Men’s Open.
To be held on May 12 and 13, the eighth edition has already gained a lot of interest and a full field is expected for one of Yas Links’ main events of the year.
The 36-hole stroke-play tournament is open to all amateur players with a valid EGF handicap and will be played under full championship conditions. Previous years of the competition have proved a massive hit and next month’s is set to be no different.
“This competition is run annually since Yas Links opened,” said Tiaan Rosslee, golf operations manager PGA. “Most of the tournaments that we host, we get an average of around 50 to 60 players which is very good and we are expecting another big turn out for the Yas Links Men’s Open.”
Entry costs Dh450 for members (adults) and Dh250 for juniors, while EGF members will be charged Dh1,000. Guests can enter for Dh1,100 (adults) or Dh600 for juniors.
Besides playing on luxurious greens in the capital, the fee also includes unlimited practice ground access on both days and breakfast and lunch buffets.
Prizes are available for the top-three finishers and even if you find yourself way off the lead, there is something to aim for. Among the accolades up for grabs is Best Net and Best Gross for each day of play.
Contestants can also make a weekend out of the competition and take advantage of exclusive rates on hotels at Yas Island.
With registration closing on May 9, Rosslee says it’s a competition not to be missed for golfers who want to test themselves.
“Any Open championship that we’ve hosted has been successful and the field of players is pretty high so it’s going to be competitive,” he said.
“There are not many tournaments like these organised around the UAE as you would find in any countries like England or South Africa, so it’s a chance to see where their game is at and a chance to win some great prizes. It will be a good test for them to showcase their skills.”
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.