Indian prodigy 1st amateur to win Mena Golf Tour

Australia’s Eccles fires a sizzling 63 to equal Dubai Creek course record

Indian Rayhan Thomas created history, becoming the first amateur to win a Mena Golf Tour event when he claimed the Dubai Creek Open in a playoff on Wednesday.

Starting the day tied for the lead with England’s Jake Shepherd on 10-under, Thomas carded a 69 to reach 12-under for the tournament, forcing a playoff with England’s Luke Joy, who fired a brilliant five-under 66.

Thomas bogeyed the first extra hole, the 18th, while Joy had to settle for a double bogey after hitting his approach from the bunker into the water, providing a dramatic climax to the tour’s landmark 50th event.

Playing on a special invitation from Darren Clarke, the patron of the Mena Golf Tour, Australia’s Benjamnin Eccles produced the highlight of the day, shooting a sizzling eight-under 63 to match the course record, jointly held by Lee Westwood and Clarke himself.

“I am really delighted with my efforts. Winning it in the 50th event of the tour and too on my home course made it special,” said Thomas after receiving the winner’s trophy from Adel Zarouni, vice-chairman of the Emirates Golf Federation. Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the Mena Golf Tour, Chris May, CEO of Dubai Golf, and Patrick Morrow, the club captain, were also present at the presentation ceremony.

Thomas, who finished runner-up to Shepherd last year, said taking a relaxed attitude into the final round worked wonders.

“I was pretty calm out there and focused on one shot at a time. “The only anxious moment I had was at the 18th when my approach shot the rocks, nearly ending up in the water, but I managed to save par to get into the playoff,” he said.

“Overall, I played steady golf and holed some nice putts, including one for birdie on the 15th from about 12 feet. It feels nice to get the job the done this time around,” said the 16-year-old prodigy, who hails from the southern Indian state of Kerala.