CAIRO (Egypt): Frenchman Sebastien Gros is determined to resuscitate his career this year and he made a brilliant start in that direction by winning the inaugural $75,000 NEWGIZA Open, the first-ever MENA Tour by Arena event in Egypt, on Thursday.
The 31-year-old, a two-time champion on the Challenge Tour who lost his European Tour card in 2018 after playing at the highest level for three years, started the final round two shots behind overnight leader Curtis Knipes and finished two ahead of the runner-up David Hague.
Gros (67) played a second straight bogey-free round that was one better than his second-round four-under par 68 to reach 13-under par 203 and take home the winner’s cheque of $13,500.
Young Hague, who decided to turn pro after securing his card at the MENA Tour Qualifying School, almost turned his second start as a professional into a dream win, charging through the field with a seven-under par 65. He could have finished much better than his eventual 11-under par but paid the price of making a late bogey on the par-5 17th hole.
Ireland’s Conor Purcell (67) made a great start to his MENA Tour career as well, finishing tied third alongside the promising Swede, Niclas Weiland (68). Knipes (73) never got going after a triple-bogey seven on the par-4 eighth hole and finally finished tied fifth at nine-under par 207 along with Scotland’s Scott Henry (69) and England’s Abu Dhabi-based Luke Joy (69).
“This is fantastic. I have worked very hard this winter along with my team and to get a win so early in the season is surely going to give me a lot of confidence going forward,” said Gros.
The Frenchman took full advantage of the easier opening stretch of NEWGIZA, making three birdies in his first four holes, and then added two more in a round which saw him hit 16 greens in regulation.
“I missed the green on the eight and had a poor tee shot on the 16th. Those were the only two holes where I had to battle for pars. It was very solid otherwise,” he added.
“I got off to a good start and was very pleased when I two-putted for birdie from 95 feet on the third. That was a very good first putt to tap-in distance despite facing two or three breaks. Immediately after that, I hit what was possibly my best shot of the day on the fourth – a five-iron against the wind to about six feet.
“It was after that fourth hole that I felt I could win this. My long game was very good throughout the day once again, and even though I missed a few other birdie chances, I putted well too.”
Hague, who entered the MENA Tour Qualifying School as an amateur, turned pro right after securing his card, and was delighted with his performance this early in his professional career.
“I got off to a hot start and was eight-under par through 13 holes. Slightly disappointed with the finish as I missed a birdie chance from six feet on the 15th, then three-putted from 15 feet on the 17th hole for my only bogey of the day. And I missed an eight-footer on the 18th,” said the 23-year-old from Molton, near York.
“But seven-under par is a great round and I am really pleased with the way I have played, especially after missing the cut last week in Jordan.”
The MENA Tour by Arena next moves to Muscat, Oman, for the Ghala Open from February 17-19. Winner of the tournament gets a spot at the European Tour’s Oman Open, held the following week.