DUBAI — A bold approach shot on the closing hole that set up Rayhan Thomas’ tense victory in the 2016 Dubai Creek Open has literally set in stone his relationship with Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club where he first learned to golf.
The club has named a rock by the water hazard on the 18th after Rayhan to commemorate his epoch-making victory that saw him become the first amateur to win a MENA Tour event in a defining high mark of his still young career.
The engraved ‘Rayhan’s Rock’ plaque, Dubai Creek officials believe will serve as a lasting reminder to youngsters about what they can achieve through hard work and dedication.
Make no mistake, Rayhan, the top-ranked amateur golfer in his native India and the Middle East, had to be very good to win the tournament that week, but he also needed a bit of luck along the way to bury memories of an agonizing defeat to Jake Shepherd in a playoff in the 2015 Dubai Creek Open.
Thomas, 16 at the time, almost lost it when he slightly pushed his full last shot in regulation from the waste bunker on the right of the 18th fairways but, as luck would have it, the ball hit a rock by the water hazard before bouncing back onto the grass.
His heart was in his mouth, but he managed to save par to get into the playoff that he won with a bogey as England’s Luke Joy ended with a watery double-bogey six. Rayhan lifted his putter skywards in celebration and broke into a megawatt smile.
Rayhan has since climbed to number 50 in world amateur golf rankings, making him the top qualifier for Trevor Immelman’s International team ahead of the inaugural Junior President’s Cup later this as the Dubai-born prodigy looks poised to crack the big time.“Having a rock named after me is a great honour, and a nice gesture by the club one that I wish cherish forever. Getting recognized and noticed for our work is something we all relish,” said Rayhan, who is also supported by the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation.
“This (support) from the Dubai Creek and the foundation is certainly the best thing that could have happened to me now, when I am ready to plunge into serious golf training for a fulfilling golf career,” said Thomas, who took to golf at the age of nine through the Junior Development Programme (JDP) at Dubai Creek.
“We are delighted to honour Rayhan as part of our drive to encourage and nurture young talent who have shown great promise,” said Mustafa Al Hashimi, Chief Hospitality & Leisure Officer, wasl Hospitality.
"Rayhan’s achievements on both domestic and international circuits speak volumes about his drive to be a golfing star. If he has been acknowledged as an extraordinary talent on the (MENA) tour, it is because of hard work and total dedication to the game.”
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Tour, thanked the Dubai Creek management for its innovative gesture, saying: “I am sure, Rayhan’s Rock will figure in discussions every time golfers approach the 18th green and, hopefully, will motivate youngsters to work hard on their game and realise their dreams of pursuing a career in golf.
“I wish him the very the best and hope he has a great future ahead of him," he added.