MUSCAT (OMAN): In his last two visits to the Ghala Golf Club with the MENA Tour by Arena, Germany’s Aaron Leitmannstetter finished runner-up and the champion in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
The Tour is back at the beautifully manicured course in the heart of Muscat after a hiatus of two years, but despite his fabtastic record, the 25-year-old Leitmannstetter says he has absolutely no expectations this week.
That’s because Leitmannstetter is recovering from a viral that has laid him low since the start of the year and is hoping that his happy memories of the golf course will stand him in better stead than his preparation for the third event of the 2019 season.
In 2015, Leitmannstetter fired a final-round 68, the best card of the day, to finish two shots behind winner Lee Corfield. A year later, he did even better. A 66 in windy conditions on the final day, again the day’s best score, lifted him from five behind leader Ahmed Marjane at the start of the round to the top of the podium.
“I love this golf course and I feel very comfortable here. I don’t know why, but the golf course seems to suit my eyes. I think it has also got to do something with Oman. I enjoy coming here and the Omani people have always been so nice to me,” said the Munich-born and Dubai-based Leitmannstetter.
“It is a golf course where you have to be very smart with your golf. The wind can be a huge factor and the greens are very tricky. It is also a tight course. You need to know where to hit your shots, and more importantly, where to miss them.”
The good news is that Leitmannstetter is feeling a lot better.
“It all started at the beginning of the year and I picked up some virus that just kept lingering on. I played the last two weeks on the MENA Tour, but I was never 100 per cent. There were days when I could play, and there were days when I just could not because of high fever and pain in the limbs,” said Leitmannstetter who coaches at Emirates Golf Club under Stephen Deane.
“I decided to just sleep for two days after the tournament at Al Zorah Golf Club in Ajman. I must say I am feeling a lot better.
“I don’t have high expectations this week, and that could be a good thing. I changed my clubs to Wilson earlier this year and haven’t been able to put a lot of time in the range with them because of my illness. However, I can feel that my game is getting back in the groove.”
The tournament, with a prize purse of $75,000, is the third event of the 2019 season and features a full field of 114 players, including 10 amateurs.
As part of enhancing the playing opportunity for its members, the champion on the MENA Tour this week earns an invitation to the Andalucia – Costa del Sol Match Play (May 17-20) on the European Challenge Tour.
Originally designed by Bill Longmuir, the par-72 Ghala Golf Club course underwent a redesign and is a challenging layout despite the fact that it is just 6,527 yards long. Situated amidst a wadi with views of the Al Hajar mountains, the course features narrow fairways and tricky green complexes.
The MENA Tour by Arena is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. It will continue to provide Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points, thus making it a perfect pathway for ambitious young professional to the bigger tours, and for the players from the region to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.