MUSCAT (Oman): England’s Bailey Gill, playing in his first year as a professional, made two stunning birdies from almost impossible positions in his last two holes to beat roommate and Journey to Jordan #1 champion David Langley and win the Ghala Open by one shot.
At the Ghala Golf Club on Wednesday, the 22-year-old from Worksop, a member of Lindrick Golf Club, was one behind leader Craig Ross on the 16th tee and finished with three birdies in a row. That included spectacular chips on the 17th and 18th holes to a couple of feet and finish on 16-under par 200.
Langley, looking for his second win of the season, was two-over par at the turn for the day but went about his back nine in seven-under to finish second on 15-under par. Ross, looking for his first win on the MENA Tour, made a superb par save on the 17th, but paid the price for a wayward tee shot on the 18th to make a double bogey that dropped him down to 12-under par and in third place.
India’s Dubai-based amateur Arjun Gupta recorded his best finish on the MENA Tour courtesy a closing round of bogey-free 66. He finished on 11-under par, one ahead of England’s Benjamin Jones, who closed with a 66 as well.
Jones was tied fifth alongside England’s Alfie Plant (71), Pavan Sagoo (71) and Curtis Knipes (68) and Paul McBride (66) of Ireland.
Gill was in contention one shot behind the leader going into the final round of the inaugural NEWGIZA Open last week in Cairo before finishing tied 12th following a 74, but was not to be denied this week. He compiled a bogey-free round, that included five birdies in the last six holes.
The highlights were the ones on the 17th and 18th. On the penultimate hole of the course, the southpaw pushed his drive and was faced with a difficult chip shot over the bunker with very little space to stop the ball. On the 18th, he hit his tee shot left again and could barely see the flag from the desert area. On both occasions, he hit his chips stone dead.
“This is fantastic. I have been waiting for some time now for this to happen. It did not happen in Cairo, but I am glad I could hang on and win here in Oman,” said Gill.
“Those two were tough shots on the last two holes. I hit a horrible tee shot on the 18th hole and there was a lot of pressure when David holed his putt for a birdie on the last. David really played great despite the poor start he had, especially on that back nine.
“I was disappointed last week, but I came here knowing I was playing solid. I have been playing good golf for some time now, just struggling to get everything together and I am glad I managed to do that.”
Overnight leader Langley started with a double bogey, but caught fire on the back nine, where he made a 20-footer eagle putt from the fringe on the 10th after nearly driving the green.
“I am gutted, but after that finish, if I had to lose to someone, I’d rather it be Bailey,” said the 25-year-old, also playing his first full season as a professional. “I was rooming with him last week in Cairo and I know how upset he was after the finish there and credit to him for getting it done.
“I hit a perfect tee shot on the first and made a poor swing with my second. Obviously, the adrenaline was pumping a bit. That double affected me on the fourth hole, which is a par-5 and I could not make a birdie there. Being two-over after four on an easier stretch was not ideal, but I stayed patient and went on a roll on the back nine.
“A win here would have possibly got me two European Tour starts (Oman, for winning Ghala Open and Hassan Trophee II for topping the Journey to Jordan at the halfway stage), so there was that pressure. Good to see Bailey getting the Oman spot and I am in a nice position to get into Morocco after this.”
Gupta, who turns 16 in May, showed once again why he is considered one of the brightest prospects in the region as he notched his first top-five on the MENA Tour and came to within one shot of earning his first-ever Official World Golf Ranking points.
“I am happy with my finish. The whole week my short game and my putting was very good. I could have probably driven the ball a bit better, but I can’t complain after such a finish,” said the Dubai-born Gupta, who is coached by Jamie McConnell at the Claude Harmon Performance Institute.
“I want to win the Amateur Journey to Jordan this year and this is a good step in that direction. I also want to win a tournament on the MENA Tour and this gives me confidence that I am close”
The MENA Tour by Arena next moves to Bahrain for the Royal Golf Club Bahrain Open from February 24-26, the fourth leg of the 2020 season.