When Rayhan Thomas steps out at Emirates Golf Club for the Dubai Desert Classic next week, don’t expect the 19-year-old Dubai man to be overwhelmed.
In fact, it will be his fourth European Tour event, and third in Dubai, marking yet another stellar achievement to his burgeoning career to date.
The Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club man first turned heads as a 17-year-old in 2017 when he sealed the Dubai Creek Open title after holing a record-tying nine consecutive birdies in a second round 61.
Much has happened since that sunny day in September two years ago and Thomas’s career has gone from strength to strength since, with two wins and a feed of top-5 and top-10 finishes to add to his sparkling amateur CV.
His recent victory at the 11th King Hamad Trophy in Bahrain was capped off with a stunning final round 68 to finish on 17 under par, five shots clear of South African Mathiam Keyser. A sure sign that more is to come for the Al Garhoud resident.
“2018 was good year. The second half in particular was a lot better. I played really well in last three or four events and to cap it off with a great win in Bahrain was even better,” he said.
Aside from his win in the Gulf state, Thomas came close in Singapore, finishing two shots behind winner Takumi Kanaya of Japan at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. He also recorded a top-10 at WATC – Eisenhower Trophy and top-15 at the Asian Games in August.
“With my game, I’m happy with iron play, it’s one of my strengths. I can improve everywhere. Putting is somewhere I need to get some practice but I’m feeling good overall,” he continued.
“2019 is going to be exciting now going to Oklahoma for university and then playing the Dubai Desert Classic next week. Hopefully I can keep the form.”
Unlike many young players on the amateur circuit who are hoping to turn professional soon, Thomas is eager to gather more experience by extending his amateur career in America.
The Indian-born prodigy has committed to Oklahoma State University (OSU) – the former alma mater of PGA Tour stars Rickie Fowler and Peter Uihlein – and is hoping to replicate his solid displays at the AAC when he starts at the college in August.
“Being away from home will be an interesting experience. I’m used to travelling all the time but it will just be different living on my own,” he said.
“The competition in the US is incomparable. The level of play is unbelievable. If I can compete at that level, I know I’ll be ready for the pro game.”
Thomas is ranked 17th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, which is the highest for a freshman at OSU. Two of his other teammates for next season are in the top five – Viktor Hovland (Norway) at No. 3, Matthew Wolff (America) at 4.
It’s sure to be a test but for each opportunity that has presented itself in the past, Thomas has flourished.
There will no doubt be the lure to compete at every given opportunity in the months ahead but for now Thomas insists he will play in fewer events until his studies are complete.
He said: “I need to get through the last semester of school. I need to get my study done and get my game right. I’ll play some of the MENA Tour events but fewer events than last year to ensure I finish all my school work. I want to win as many events as I can until then.”
On iCademy, an online private school for students in grades K-12 around the world, which Thomas has been using since mid-2015, he said: “It was a great decision to use it. I needed something to help me study and travel at the same time. Regular school would not be able to give me as many days off. I can tailor my study time to when I want to practice and to keep with how much time I need to study.”