Thomas gets a fillip
Rayhan Thomas with Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi.
The UAE's number one amateur, Rayhan Thomas, has received a major boost with the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation taking the rising star under its wing to help fulfil his dream of pursuing a career in golf.
Representing a rich assortment of fearless golfers who have enlivened the Mena Golf Tour scene with their youthful exuberance and natural flair, the 16-year-old prodigy, who was born and brought up in Dubai, has strung together an impressive streak, winning virtually every amateur title up for grabs on the domestic circuit.
Known for his calm demeanour on the course, Thomas nearly broke through for his maiden victory on the Mena Golf Tour at the 2015 Dubai Creek Open before losing out in a three-man playoff. But judging by the way he played overall, it might just be history deferred.
The busy 2016 Mena Golf Tour schedule presents another opportunity for Thomas, whose family hails from the southern Indian state of Kerala, to realise his immediate goal of becoming the first amateur to win a Mena Golf Tour event and fast-track his ambition of turning professional near in the future.
His dedication to the game is stronger than ever and that augurs well for a player who has become the third golfer after the UAE's Ahmed Al Musharrekh and Morocco's Ahmed Marjan to receive the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation support aimed at recognizing and promoting young talent in the region, who have achieved creditable results on the Mena Golf Tour, regardless of their nationality. Both Al Musharrekh and Marjan have since turned professionals with the latter adding a slice of history, becoming the first Mena national to win a Mena event, a feat he achieved at the 2014 Ras Al Khaimah Classic in a sign of the times in an ever-changing world.
"It's great honour to have the support of the foundation, one that will take my confidence to a whole new level. Getting recognized and noticed for our work is something we all relish," said Thomas, who was crowned number one golfer in the UAE after topping the Emirates Golf Federation's Order of Merit in 2015. "From my experience on the Mena Golf Tour, I can tell that I can compete with professionals. My game is in better shape than last year. I am striking the ball better. Playing on the tour has allowed me to better my course management skills," said the rising star. "This (support) 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 finished second on the 2015 Mena Golf Tour Order of Merit last year.
Since taking to golf at the age of nine through the Junior Development Programme (JDP) launched by the then UAE Golf Association, Thomas, who is now home-schooled, has dramatically climbed the ladder of success and his rich cache of achievements includes victories in the Dubai Creek Championship, the Emirates Amateur Open Championship, the Qatar Amateur Open, the Al Ain Open to name a few. Set up under the auspices of golf in DUBAi in 2006, the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation strives to identify and nurture the talented Mena nationals and expatriates with the aim of producing a future champ.generation of champions.
"Our aim is to encourage and nurture young talent who have shown great promise by racking up some really good performances on the Mena Golf Tour," said Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi. "Rayhan's achievements 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. He brings special energy to any event he plays.
"I wish him the very the best and hope he has a great future ahead of him," added Mr Buamaim, who is also the chairman of the Mena Golf Tour.