Ras Al Khaimah: The Ras Al Khaimah Classic at Tower Links Golf Club tees off today as the second stop on the four-leg Mena Tour.
The 7,016 yard course, provides a challenging yet fair test for golfers aiming to consolidate their positions on the inaugural tour’s Order of Merit.
Yasin Ali, who finished runner-up to England’s Zane Scotland in the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open last week, will be the first on the tee at 8.30am along with UAE’s Christopher Davies and Moroccan amateur Mustapha El Maouas.
In all, 69 players, including eight amateurs, will line up for honours. The UAE-based professionals and amateurs are well represented in the event with 20 entries, followed in that order by Morocco (10), Kenya (six) and Pakistan (five) and Nigeria (three).
UAE’s Joel Neale, Ariel Ignacio of the Philippines and Scotland’s Greg Nicholson who made their debut as professionals in Abu Dhabi, are also included in the field.
It will be interesting to see how the trio, who now know what it takes to compete in paid ranks, plan their games in the $50,000 event, which is expected to unfold in an absorbing battle.
Of three debutants, Nicholson, who scored a hole in one just hours after turning pro, finished a creditable tied ninth in Abu Dhabi while long-hitting Neale settled for 22nd with rounds of 71, 78 and 74 on seven over par 223 while the Filipino missed the cut.
If the scores of the first event in Abu Dhabi are any indication, the Moroccan and Pakistani players could pose a serious threat to Ross Bain and Yasin Ali, the two most experienced players in the field.
Former Asian Tour player Yasin had the chance to seal victory, but three-putted on the closing 54th hole which allowed England’s Zane Scotland to walk away with the title with Morocco’s Younes El Hassani finishing third and Scotland’s Bain fourth. Former European Tour player Scotland has opted out of this event, but will return for the Shaikh Maktoum Dubai Open, the third stop on the tour.
Pakistan’s Shafiq Masih, who featured in the last group on the final day, just failed to keep the momentum going and stumbled to a disappointing 77, eventually finishing a tied seventh on one over par 217.
Ahmed Marjan of Morocco is leading the Order of Merit in amateur division, followed by Daniel Owen of Bahrain and UAE’s Miki Mirza. The 18-year-old Marjan is one of the leading amateurs from Morocco and did well in the recent Arab Championship, finishing a creditable third.
According to Simon Payne, the head golf professional at the Tower Links Golf Club, the course is set up nicely, but three tricky holes will hold the key to posting good numbers. “Anyone walking off with a par on the fifth (par-5), 13th (par-5) and 17th (par-4) would have done a great job. Any better scores on these holes will be a bonus,” said Payne, who is also competing in the event.
“These three mangrove-lined holes will make or break a round,” said Payne who himself holds the unofficial course record of five-under-par 67. “The par-five 18th is reachable and we can expect lot of eagles there. It’s a great finishing hole and could well decide the winner on the final day,” he added.
MENA TOUR ORDER OF MERITS AFTER ROUND ONE
- AMATEUR - 1 Ahmed Marjan 24; 2 Daniel Owen 22; 3 Mukhtar Mirza 19; 4T Mustapha El-maouas 15; 4T Michael Harradine 15; 6 Mehdi Saissi 14; 7 Mohammed Bellaroussia 5; 8 Vikramjeet Singh Judge 3
- PROFESSIONAL - 1 Zane Scotland 9000; 2 Yasin Ali 6000; 3 Younes El Hassani 4000; 4 Ross Bain 3000; 5 Sean McNamara 2500; 6 Anil Shah 1745; 7T Ross Canavan 1375; 7T Shafiq Masih 1375; 7T Andy Andrews 1001; 7T Aadil Jehangir 1001; 7T Abdel Kader El Hali 1001; 7T Greg Nicolson 1001; 7T George Perry 1001; 7T Dale Marmion 897.5; 7T Matloob Ahmed 897.5; 7T Simon Dunn 837.5; 7T Geoff Lound 837.5; 7T Brian Njoroge 775; 7T Simon Payne 775