Al Ain: A reinvigorated Jake Shepherd produced an inspired performance to win the Mena Golf Tour Championship, beating a charging Sean McNamara in a sudden-death playoff at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club yesterday.
The 21-year-old professional from England birdied the first play-off hole (the par-five 18th), thanks to a putt from four feet after both players carded identical 12-under-par 54-hole totals of 201, to register the biggest victory of his career since turning professional in January this year.
With this win, which carried a cash prize of $13,500 (Dh49,587), Shepherd also walked away with the Order of Merit title with total earnings of $17,749. Peter Richardson, also of England, and America's McNamara ($13,271) followed him on the Order of Merit for professionals.
The top three were handed invitations to compete in the 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic to be held in February, along with Morocco's Ahmad Marjan, who topped the Order of Merit for amateurs.
Dr. Shaikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Adviser to the President of the UAE, presented the prizes in the company of Shaikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, chairman of the Arab Golf Federation, Mohammad Rashid Al Nasseri, general manager of Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club, and Mohammad Juma Bu Amim, chairman of the Mena Golf Tour.
The day belonged to young Shepherd, who kept his cool when it mattered most to put his Ras Al Khaimah Classic meltdown behind him. Starting the day one shot off the pace, Shepherd needed a birdie on the closing hole, a par-five, to match McNamara's score. And he delivered just that after reaching the green in two., repeating it in the play-off, when he calmly holed for a birdie from close range.
Over the moon
"I am feeling absolutely over the moon. My parents will be proud of my achievement," said Shepherd, who had a great chance to win the Ras Al Khaimah Classic two weeks ago, but squandered a massive five-shot lead in the final round.
"You always learn from experience — and I certainly did," he said. "I am feeling a bit emotional at the moment and it will take some time for the feeling to sink in.
Final (par 71):
201 - Jake Shepherd (England) 66 68 67 (first play-off hole win)
201 - Sean McNamara (US) 65 70 66
204 - Gary Birch Jr. (Germany) 68 68 68.