ABU DHABI // Daniel Owen overcame nerves on the first tee that left him "shaking" to produce the round of his life and a new course record score on the first day of the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open yesterday.
The 22-year-old amateur admitted he was consumed by fear on the opening hole of the inaugural Mena Tour event before composing himself to producing a flawless four under par 68 to lead the rest of the 72-strong field by a shot at the end of the first day of the event at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
"This is a really big occasion for me," Owen said. "To be honest, when I was standing over my ball on the first tee, my heart was in my mouth. "I was really shaking."
Owen, the Englishman who lives in and represents Bahrain, said it took a 30-foot putt for birdie on the par 3 third hole to clam his nerves.
"I would have taken level par," Owen said. "I just didn't want to make a fool of myself. So it was really encouraging to get off to such a good start."
Playing with Matloob Ahmed and Younes El Hassani, Owen hit the turn at three under and registered eight pars and a birdie coming home.
"It would be nice to do it again," Owen said. "If I play like this over the next two days then I'll be alright. The important thing for me is to relax and try not to look at the scoreboard."
Owen's play rubbed off on El Hassani, his playing partner from Morocco, who holds a share of second place with Shafiq Masih, of Pakistan and Britain's Zane Scotland at three under.
"This tour is something we have been waiting on in the Arab world for too many years," El Hassani said.
"We can try to play in Europe, but the conditions are very different and that has not helped with the player's improvement. I am pleased to be in such a good position. I had only one dropped shot and was really happy with the way things went out there."
Owen, meanwhile, plans to turn pro and said it would be "perfect" if his professional debut came in the King Hamad Trophy in Bahrain in December.
"I have only really been playing full time for the past few months," Owen, who has just complete a degree in golf management, said. "Playing professional golf has always been my dream."
Yasin Ali, of the Jebel Ali club in Dubai, is the top UAE-based player. He is tied-fifth place after a round of two under 70.