Dubai-based Rayhan Thomas, the rising MENA Golf Tour star and UAE’s No. 1 amateur, showcased his immense talent once again, winning the weather-hit Scottish Boys’ Open Stroke Play title at Lanark.
At the 25th oldest golf club in the world, the 16-year-old Thomas, who is supported by the Sheikh Maktoum Golf Foundation, defeated Australia’s Ben Ferguson at the second play-off hole with a par after the pair finished tied at the top on five-under.
Thomas, who plays off a plus-two handicap, had his chances to seal the deal in regulation play, but a bogey on the closing par-3 hole extended his wait in an event which was reduced to 54 holes after lightning storms forced cancellation of play on Wednesday.
“This is a good event to win as Scotland has some of the best under-18 players,” said Thomas, who is currently on a five-week tour of the UK which culminates with the 90th Boys’ Amateur Championship, the R&A-organised tour- nament which takes place at the fabled Muirfield from August 11.
“It’s too hot to play in Dubai in the summer so I thought why not try Scotland? This is one of the biggest events I’ve won. I also won the Qatar Amateur in January and went on to play in the Qatar Masters on the European Tour which was a great experience.”
Thomas is currently ranked 520th in the Amateur World Ranking, and this result is expected to take him closer to 400.
Last week at the Scottish Youths Open Championship, which was played at Kittocks Course in Fairmont St Andrews, Thomas had finished tied-11th, despite having started the tournament with a poor opening round of 74.
Thomas opened with a one-under 69 and backed it up with a neat 66, which was highlighted by three birdies on the bogey-free front nine, before forcing a play-off with a final round 70.
“This win shows I am improving with every tournament and that makes me feel proud,” said Thomas, a two-time runner-up on the MENA Golf Tour.
“I’ve been playing quite well on the MENA Golf Tour and that has added to my confidence. I am doing a lot of good work to make sure everything is in good shape,” said Thomas.
Congratulating Thomas on his victory, Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, said: “Rayhan’s achievement speaks volumes of his immense talent and temperament.
“I am confident his win will motivate emerging youngsters, especially from the MENA region, to work hard on their game and make a name for themselves.
“Our aim is to encourage young talent who have shown great prom- ise by producing some really good performances on the MENA Golf Tour and will continue to do so.
“I wish him the very the best and hope Rayhan has a great future ahead of him.”
MENA Golf Tour regular Aaron Leitmannstetter fired a sizzling six-under par 66 to lie just one shot off the pace after the opening round of The Roar at Waterkloof Golf Club on Wednesday.
Starting from the 10th tee, the young German flew off the gate in style, picking up four shots in his first five holes. However, a double-bogey on the par-3, 15th prevented him from joining South Africa’s Riekus Nortje atop the leaderboard.
Nortje was bogey-free in his 65, while his compatriot Jason Viljoen occupied solo third on five-under, one clear of a four-man group that included Chile’s Antonio Costa, winner of the recent Mountain Creek Open in Thailand.
Despite the double bogey, Leitmannstetter was quite pleased with his efforts.
“Yeah, I’m very happy and I enjoyed it out there, I got off to a really good start, but unfortunately double-bogeyed the 15th which is not an easy par-three,” said the man who rolled in eight birdies, including three on the back nine.
“After that, I just tried to keep it going and it went off pretty well. I’m glad because I holed some really important putts down the stretch.
“The greens are rolling magnificently. It’s very important to hit the ball nicely into those greens and place it well to have a good putt. It worked out for me.
“I’m actually trying to keep it simple. I wanted to play well because it’s my last event here in this beautiful country.”
Nortje, who racked up a second and ninth in the previous two events, made the most of his recent form.
“I’ve been playing pretty solid and hitting the ball pretty well and it’s good to string together another bogey-free round,” he said.
A key part of Nortje’s success was finding greens in regulation, and it’s a game plan he wants to pursue over the next two days.
“It was actually quite funny because it’s the first time in about 10 years that I’ve played this golf course. It actually worked out quite well for me,” said Nortje. “I hit the ball in the right areas, I only missed two greens — both of them just off the green — so it was pretty good all-round.”
South Africa’s Bryandrew Roelofsz, who won the South to East Challenge two weeks back, returned a three-under 69 to share eighth along with Siphiwe Siphayi and the English duo of Joe Heraty and Jeff Inglis as Lee Corfield, a four-time winner on the MENA Golf Tour, settled for a level-par 72.
The team also reveal some good news from Al Zorah Golf Club, treat their taste buds at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club with their signature dish, try out a mind and body experience at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club and test out footgolf at the Arabian Ranches Golf Club.
The episode also features The Track, Meydan Golf/The Meydan Hotel and Els Club/Butch Harmon School of Golf.