AQABA (Jordan): Mitch Waite has been trending in the right direction and he provided some more evidence of where his game is headed by taking sole possession on top of the leaderboard on a windy opening day at the $75,000 Journey to Jordan #2 on Monday.
The 24-year-old from Bristol made a three-putt bogey on his final hole of the day, but five birdies before that ensured an opening card of four-under par 68, which was enough for a one-shot lead over his playing partner Benjamin David and Curtis Knipes (both England) and Scotland’s Ryan Lumsden.
Tom Sloman, the third player in Waite’s group, shot a two-under par 70 to be tied fifth alongside Sweden’s Ake Nilsson. Pavan Sagoo, Jamie Rutherford, Luke Joy and Filip Lundell, winner of Qualifying School B at the same venue, were tied seventh at one-under par 71.
In the race between David Langley and David Hague to secure the Trophee Hassan II start on the European Tour, Hague was slightly ahead of his rival, even though both players had a start to forget. Hague opened with a 75 and Langley shot 77.
Waite, who turned pro late in 2018 after finishing runner-up at the European Amateur and a semi-finalist at The Amateur Championship, has had a good start to the year. He played the three events in South Africa that were co-sanctioned by the Challenge Tour on invites, made cuts in all three and finished tied seventh in Cape Town to be currently 13th in the Challenge Tour Ranking.
“I have not played too well around here, so I had a slightly different mindset this week to go and shoot the best that I possibly can and I am lucky I played with good guys – David and Sloman – and they played well as well,” said Waite, who finished tied 37th in the Journey to Jordan #2 last year and secured his MENA Tour card by finishing 10th in Qualifying School B.
“I had a decent start today, went a bit quite in the middle and kept playing well on the back nine. I hit two good shots into the 18th but ended up with a bogey. It’s just one of those things, and I have got to take the positives from this. I was five-under par through 17 and shot a 68 which was a good round.”
The Felton Golf Club member has started working with Liam James in Belfry as his coach and his friend Will Donald as a mental coach.
“I have come out this year with a better mental frame and probably better technically. I did not have any status and just played on invites in 2019. But it was a slow year and I did not get going. I have worked on all departments of the game and very much looking forward to what 2020 has in store.
“It would be nice to get a playing status on Challenge Tour. Obviously, I want to win and getting it on the MENA Tour would be great, but these are things you cannot rush. I look at Hague, Langley and Bailey (Gill) and they have all gone and won events in their first few weeks as a pro and here I am, have been a pro for more than a year and still haven’t got my first win.
“I can get down upon myself, or I can keep doing the right things and stay patient knowing that my week will come.”
India’s Arjun Gupta was the best-placed amateur in the field, tied 20th after a round of two-over 74