France’s Lionel Weber fired a solid five-under 67 to grab a share of the lead as rising teen star Victoria Tip-Aucha finished six shots off the pace after the opening round of the MENA Tour’s MahaSamutr Masters on Tuesday.
Weber, an established member of the Asian Tour and a Banyan Golf Club ambassador, reeled off seven birdies against two bogeys to join Thai Varanyu Rattanaphaibulkij and England’s MENA Tour ace Zane Scotland on top a crowded leaderboard.
Lee Corfield, a four-time winner on the MENA Tour, overcame an early bogey on the first to card a 68 that left him in a three-man group tied for fourth along with fellow Englishman Jordan Garnish and Thai Suradit Yongcharoenchai.
Sponsored by MahaSamutr Country Club Hua Hin and supported by Singha Water, the tournament saw 15-year-old US prodigy Victoria, of Thai heritage, make history by becoming the first woman to tee it up in a MENA Tour event.
She made the turn at level par after making a birdie on the opening hole, but two double bogeys, one each at 10th and 12th, dropped her back. Unruffled by the mid-round wobble, she picked up three shots in her last five holes to be tied 41st in the field.
“I started off well, but got to the point where I was four-over. I think I did well to bring it back to one-over, which was good,” said Victoria, who has already won five times on the Thailand girls golf circuit this year.
Weber felt local knowledge came in handy as he seized the early initiative.
“Being a Banyan Club ambassador, I have played this course many times. It’s always a pleasure to play on this great track,” he said. “I just didn’t putt very well, but still made some birdies out there which was quite pleasing.”
Thailand’s Rattanaphaibulkij mixed six birdies with a bogey while Scotland, a 10-time winner on the Tour, went bogey free on a day when 29 players, including 10 from Thailand, broke par.
Dubai-based Indian amateur Rayhan Thomas, who is supported by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, returned a 70 to lead the amateur division on two-under, one ahead of the Thai trio of Runchanapong Youprayong, Worathon Zeng and 14-year-old Phichaksn Maichon, who recently won the 13-14 division at the 2016 Junior World championships in the United States.
Thomas had reached four-under for his round after 12 holes, but two late bogeys – on the fifth and seventh holes – denied him an even better finish.
Another Asian Tour regular, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, was alongside Thomas and seven others at two-under 70.
UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh endured a difficult opening round, signing for an 81 that left him a mountain to climb to make the cut.
Wolmer Murillo will be hoping local knowledge and the memories of his incredible run of success on the MENA Tour’s Thailand swing last year will spur him on to more laurels when the MahaSamutr Masters tees off at Banyan Golf Club in Hua Hin on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Venezuelan star won the Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen by three shots and followed it up with a second-place finish in the MahaSamutr Masters a week later when the tour travelled to Thailand for the first time in 2016.
Murillo, who is attached to Banyan, will be keen to pick up from where he left off last year, but will have his work cut-out as a strong field, packed with 13 winners on the tour, assembles at the award-winning course where Daniel Owen will be seeking revenge of sorts after last week’s disappointing finish.
A final-round 82 at Ras Al Khaimah was just a temporary blip in an otherwise strong performance from the Englishman, who opened with back-to-back 66s, and he will be keen to put that meltdown behind him when he tees it up looking for his maiden title on the tour.
Sponsored by MahaSamutr Country Club Hua Hin and supported by Singha Water, the first event on the tour’s 2017 Thailand swing will see 139 players from 26 countries battle for top honours.
The tournament will have a distinct Thai flavour with a strong home contingent of 25 golfers joining the field, which is headlined by England’s Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the MENA Tour.
Other notable contenders include Lee Corfield, Craig Hinton and Andrew Marshall, all multiple winners on the tour, cricketerturned-golfer Craig Kieswetter, who graduated from the tour’s qualifying school earlier this year, and rising teen-star Victoria TipAucha, who will become the first woman to play on the MENA Tour.
Fresh after competing in the prestigious Junior International at Sage Valley in South Carolina, where he finished a creditable tied 13th, 17-year-old Rayhan Thomas will be eager to win more than the amateur division, which has attracted as many as 16 players.
Having finished second at the Mountain Creek Open and third at MahaSamutr Masters last year, the top-ranked Indian prodigy knows a thing or two about playing conditions in Thailand.
“It feels good to return to golf courses where you have enjoyed some good finishes. I have been working very hard with my coach Justin Parsons and the good thing is that I am feeling confident about my game,” said the Dubai-based star, who is backed by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation.
The UAE’s Ahmed Al Musharrekh will spearhead the challenge in the MENA Division, confident of racking up some good results, and he said: “I am working on certain aspects of my game and hope to get things dialed in sooner than later. It’s always a work in progress.”
Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) hosted the final UAE National Monthly Medal of the 2016–2017 golf season at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club on Saturday.
Jamal Bin Marghoob won the overall Stableford Prize, while the EGF also took time out to recognize the UAE National Team winners.
The UAE National Monthly Medals are run on a Stableford format and, with an impressive score of 34 points, Jamal Bin Marghoob came out on top as overall winner.
National team golfer Khalid Yousuf won the Best Gross prize, having shot a round of five over par 76.
Awards were also given based on handicaps, with separate winners for the A-Division (0-14 handicap) and B-Division (14-24 handicap).
Khalid Al Halyan won the A-Division Prize with 30 Stableford points, while Akram Skaik won the Division-B prize with 30 Stableford points.
The event also hosted a Junior Division, with the top prize going to Reema Al Heloo with 33 points.
During the event there were a number of on-course challenges up for grabs, too. Khalid Yousuf took home the Adult Longest Drive Award, while Abdulhamid Nassouri won the Adult Nearest to the Pin Award.
Wrapping up the on-course challenges, Reema Al Heloo won the Junior Longest Drive Award and Alia Al Emadi won the Junior Nearest to the Pin Award.
The EGF also recognised the UAE National Teams’ accomplishments over the past six months, rewarded for winning Bronze in the 2017 GCC Golf Championship and Ahmed Skaik winning gold in the individual category.
The National Ladies Team also won gold in the 2017 GCC Golf Championship, with star peformer Tara Al Marzooqi taking gold in the individual category.
Lastly, the 15 & Under National Team won Gold at the 2017 GCC Golf Championship with Rashid Al Emadi winning Gold in the Individual Category.