MUSCAT (OMAN): Nick Marsh overcame a sensational final-round charge by Robin Roussel with an equally fantastic finish that saw him play the last five holes of Ghala Golf Club in five-under par and win the MENA Tour by Arena event by two shots on Wednesday.
Frenchman Roussel, starting the day four shots behind the champion, shot a course-record nine-under par 63 and had caught up with England’s Marsh with four holes to play.
Marsh, who closed with a 65, was on the 14th hole at that point and unaware of Roussel’s score. The 24-year-old, who was ranked as high as 14 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking before turning pro, then made birdies on the 14th, 15th and 18th, but the killer blow was an eagle on the par-5 16th.
Marsh eventually finished on 18-under par 198, two better than Challenge Tour player Roussel, in the 54-hole tournament that carried a total purse of $75,000. He also earned an invitation to the Andalucia – Costa del Sol Match Play (May 17-20) on the European Challenge Tour.
Scotland’s Craig Ross added a 66 to his 65 yesterday and joined England’s Max Smith (68) in tied third place at 13-under par, while Australia’s Daniel Gaunt, winner last week at Al Zorah in Ajman, was fifth at 204 despite a 69.
In the Amateurs’ category, Dubai-based 14-year-old Josh Hill (71) and England’s Curtis Knipes (70) were declared joint winners at seven-under par 209. It was a creditable effort by the two amateurs as they finished tied ninth in the overall results.
It was Marsh’s second win as a professional, following the Dawson and Sanderson Classic on the EuroPro Tour in 2017, and he was delighted with the way he handled the situation.
“It was fantastic. I just went there with a good mindset and a good gameplan and stuck to it. I was five-under through the last five holes, which was very pleasing because the wind did get up in the afternoon,” said Marsh, who made four birdies in the first 12 holes but also dropped shots on the seventh and 12th holes.
“I had no idea what Robin was doing in front of us. I just thought that I needed to stay ahead of Max and Gaunty (playing partners), who were playing very good golf as well.
“I just love this golf course. I need to wrap it up and take it with me everywhere. I think I have some kind of a love affair with it, because I have no idea why I did so well this week on the back nine,” added Marsh, who was 14-under par for the last nine holes during the week.
Roussel has shot two prior rounds of nine-under par, and incredibly, both came in the final rounds – in the first and second stage of the 2017 European Tour Qualifying School.
“That was a good round, but I am a touch disappointed now. I was coming from too far behind I think and Nick obviously played a very good round of golf,” said the 25-year-old who resides in the outskirts of Paris.
“I played very well the last two days, but today, I was even better with my scoring irons – from my 8-iron to the wedges. I hit it very close and was mostly inside the five-to-15 feet range.
“Of course, I am happy with the way I have started the season. Our Challenge Tour schedule starts late in April, so the MENA Tour is a great place for me to come out and play competitively against some quality players on quality golf courses.”
Hill had said that one of his goals on the MENA Tour this season was to have at least three top-10 finishes, and he got his first one out of the way.
“I just had a good feeling the moment I saw this golf course. The fairways are tight and it is a very tactical course,” said Hill.
“It was a good comeback today. I was struggling on the front nine and I was lucky to be just one-over at the turn. I made a couple of good up-and-downs to limit the damage. A birdie on the 10th settled me down and I was solid coming down in tough, windy conditions.”
The fourth leg of the MENA Tour is the Troon Series – Dubai Open presented by Turkish Airlines, which begins at Dubai Hills Golf Club from Tuesday, March 5.
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.