DUBAI: At the age of 19, Rayhan Thomas can hardly be called a Wise Old Man. But given his experience and achievements on the MENA Tour, his words carry a lot of weight, especially for the amateurs wanting to follow in his footsteps.
The first amateur winner on the Tour when he triumphed at the 2016 Dubai Creek Open, Thomas is now ranked 17th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). Just like it does for the top-50 professionals in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), that position opens up several doors for him when it comes to playing elite level amateur tournaments.
Enjoying a good run of form lately – including representing India at the Asian Games, shooting a tournament-low round of nine-under 64 at the World Amateur Team Championship, a second place at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and a win at the King Hamad Trophy professional tournament in Bahrain – Thomas is looking forward to the first leg of the 2019 MENA Tour season before he heads off to the Oklahoma State University, the No1 team in American college golf.
“I am really excited about the new season of the MENA Tour. I plan to play the first five tournaments. I am slightly disappointed I won’t be able to play the full schedule of 10 tournaments because I’d have joined my college in the States before the second half,” said Thomas, who matched the world record of making nine straight birdies playing alongside Darren Clarke in the 2017 Dubai Creek Open.
Thomas, who is a member at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and coaches at the Claude Harmon Performance Golf Academy in Dubai Sports City, was lavish in his praise for the MENA Tour and what it has done for his career so far.
“I have no hesitation in recommending the MENA Tour to every amateur golfer in the region. If you are serious about your golf, you should be playing on the Tour,” said Thomas.
“I have to thank the MENA Tour for the many fantastic opportunities that I have got in my career. Obviously, the biggest reason would be the availability of WAGR points, but there is much more to it than just that.
“For me, it is also the chance to play against the professionals. It’s a great learning experience not only on the golf course, but also away from it… like the travel and preparation for events. And if you do well in any of the events against this level of competition, it’s a massive boost in your confidence level.”
Thomas also earned Official World Golf Ranking points for several of his finishes on the MENA Tour and peaked at No775 in October 2016. There was a time when he was ranked higher in the world than the 14-time major champion Tiger Woods.
“That was very embarrassing honestly. A few of my friends were sending me screenshots of me being above Tiger in the OWGR and it wasn’t flattering at all,” Thomas reminisces.
“But on a serious note, that is another possibility playing on the Tour. A couple of wins by any player from this region can elevate him in the OWGR and that could mean being part of the 2020 Olympics. I know I want to be there in Tokyo representing India because I got a taste of it at the Asian Games in Jakarta last year and I loved every moment of it.”
David Spencer, Strategic Advisor to the Tour, commented: “Rayhan Thomas is a shining example of what is possible with the MENA Tour.
“For players from the region, the MENA Tour really is the pathway to golf stardom. And it becomes even more significant given that qualification for the Olympics is based on OWGR points, and that is something the Tour offers.
“We look forward to Rayhan playing the first half of the schedule and hopefully add to his previous win. His presence will be a huge motivation for our other amateur members.”
The MENA Tour is returning to the world schedule after a year of restructuring and will feature 10 tournaments in 2019. The season starts with the Qualifying School at the Ayla Golf Club, which is being played in two stages with a minimum of 30 cards available from either stage. The three-round Q School-A starts Wednesday, January 30, while the Q School-B starts Sunday, February 3.
The first tournament of the 2019 season will also be played at the Ayla Golf Club in Jordan from February 7. It will be the first tournament in the history of the MENA Tour to offer a total prize purse of US$ 100,000.
The Spring Season of the Tour will feature five tournaments in February and March, followed by another five tournaments in the Autumn Season in September and October.
Five fantastic playing opportunities have been lined up by the MENA Tour for the top five players on the Order of Merit after the Spring Season. This includes spots in leading tournaments on various Tours like the Maybank Championship, the Trophee Hassan II, the Jordan Mixed Open and the Indonesian Masters.