MUSCAT (Oman): Nick Marsh is back at the venue where he scripted his second professional win with a dominating performance a year ago and will be joined by record-breaking amateur Josh hill in starting their 2020 MENA Tour by Arena campaign at the $75,000 Ghala Open.
At the Ghala Golf Club last year, Marsh shot 18-under par – his back nine alone accounting for 14-under par – to beat then Challenge Tour star Robin Roussell by two shots. The 25-year-old Englishman was five-under par for his last five holes in the final round.
On that day, the 15-year-old Dubai-born Hill also recorded his first top-10 finish on MENA Tour, a performance that helped him gather speed later in the season and saw him win the Amateur Journey to Jordan, as well as smash the Guinness Book record to become the youngest ever winner of an Official World Golf Ranking-recognised event at the Al Ain Open by Arena.
This year’s Ghala Open starts Monday and boasts of a superb field, headed by the defending champion Marsh, Hill and plenty of stars including four-time European Tour champion, England’s David Horsey and the reigning Professional Journey to Jordan champion, South Africa’s MG Keyser. Horsey is planning to use the tournament as a warm-up to next week’s Oman Open on the European Tour.
Marsh, who was once ranked 14th in the world as an amateur, said: “Just feels great to be back at Ghala Golf Club. It’s my first event of 2020 and I’m really looking forward to get back playing again.
“Last year, winning here was amazing, shooting 18-under for three rounds was awesome! I still don’t know why I have such a love affair with the back nine, maybe it just suits my eye...I don’t know. But I hope it continues this week.”
And added motivation for the players this week is that the Ghala Open champion will also receive an invitation to participate in next week’s $1.75 million Oman Open.
“It’s a huge motivation, not only to win on the MENA Tour again but the rewards you get for that. A start in a main European Tour is a money-can’t-buy experience, to be able to test yourself against the best players in the world... However, I will take it one step at a time,” he added.
Hill did not play the first two events of the season in Jordan and Egypt, trying to catch up with his course work after two hectic weeks of playing on the European Tour.
“I love the layout of the Ghala Golf Club. I played well here last year, and I want to play well again and make a good start to my season,” said Hill.
“Even though I am not playing the full schedule on the MENA Tour this year, I still aim to win the Amateur Order of Merit and get back to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic next year.
“Playing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was a most wonderful experience. I learned so much. I am already practicing differently for events having seen how well and how detailed the leading pros practice.”
Also in the field this week are England’s David Langley, winner of the Journey to Jordan #1, and Frenchman Sebastien Gros, who triumphed at the NEWGIZA Open in Cairo last week.