DOHA , January 10, 2016 – Rayhan Thomas could be forgiven for “not having enough words” to describe his feelings after claiming the 30th Qatar Open Amateur Golf Championship at the Doha Golf Club on Saturday. After all, it’s not often that a ninth-grader finds himself in the limelight – not just for winning a prestigious regional tournament for men – but also for being pitchforked into battle with some of the world’s leading professionals as an added incentive.
Come January 27, and the 16-year-old Thomas will head out into the sun as part of the $2.5mn Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which features several big names and has been won by stars such as Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bj?rn and Henrik Stenson, among others.
It is an occasion the young Indian hopes will be his first big step towards becoming a pro.
“I can’t describe how I feel now on winning the Qatar Open and getting o play in the Qatar Masters later this month,” said Thomas, was born in Dubai and is already a big name in amateur golf in the UAE with several wins under his belt.
“Really, I don’t have enough words to express my joy. I am grateful to the Qatar Golf Association for giving me this opportunity. I can’t thank them enough,” the promising teen said.
Thomas beat the Netherlands’ Pierre Verlaar Jr in sudden-death playoff yesterday after both players ended three rounds tied on three-over par 219.
“The competition was terrific and the golf course was in perfect condition,” added Thomas, whose dad had flown down from Dubai to carry his bag for him.
“Having him as a caddie for the two final rounds was awesome. He is my inspiration and I owe my win to him.”
Thomas won in a thrilling finish after Verlaar Jnr missed out on a birdie on the playoff hole by the proverbial whisker.
“Pierre almost gave my dad a heart-attack,” the teen joked after receiving the winner’s trophy later. Thomas, who trains at the Butch Harmon Academy in the UAE, is clear that he wants to be a professional golfer.
“One day I want to be a pro, to play alongside the best golfers in Europe and America. I am focused towards that,” Thomas signed off.
For the record, Charlie Strickland of the UK finished third on 220, while the defending champion, Jakub Hrinda, of Slovakia, managed fourth place one shot behind.
The two best-placed Qatari players, Ali Saleh al-Kaabi and Ali al-Shahrani, who finished seventh and 11th respectively, will also get to play the Qatar Masters.
The prizes were awarded at a glittering ceremony attended by Asia Pacific Golf Confederation Chairman David Cherry, Qatar Golf Association President Hassan al-Naimi and other officials.