x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Mirza ready for a charge

The Dubai Creek member won the Yas Links men's open by two shots and hopes it will kickstart the defence of his order of merit title.

ABU DHABI // Miki Mirza has endured a frustratingly slow start to his defence of the UAE amateur order of merit title, but the Dubai Creek-based golfer is hoping that his victory in last weekend's Yas Links men's open propels him into overdrive for the second half of the season.

Mirza, 29, an Indian-born Canadian, was the only player in an entry list of 108 to break par over the tough Yas course. A solitary blemish on his card - a bogey at the 17th - had Mirza fearing that his round of 71 would not be enough.

"All those in contention at the turn seemed to go in the opposite direction so in the end I had two shots to spare," Mirza said.

That was his winning margin over Ahmed al Musharrekh, his fellow Dubai Creek member and the most accomplished of a strong golfing family featuring his elder brother Abdulla and the younger Hassan.

In turn, Ahmed's respectable score of 73 gave him a one-stroke win over Joele Neale, another former order of merit winner, who claimed third place ahead of James Cook, another Emirates Golf Federation entrant.

Mirza's other big achievement last year was qualifying for the amateur wild card in the Omega Desert Classic. He was unable to repeat that feat this year but believes another triumph in the order of merit is within his reach.

"I would really like to finish on top again," said Mirza, who stepped up his pursuit of the leader Michael Harradine, winner of the Sheikh Rashid Trophy.

"I was lying fourth before Yas but the three ahead of me [Harradine, Daniel Hendry and Abdulla al Musharrekh] didn't have the best of weekends, so I may have improved my position considerably There are a few strong events coming up and I'm looking forward to strengthening my challenge."

The tournament attracted 108 entries, including 12 overseas players from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Qatar and Lebanon, and it also carried prizes for the best net performances.

Leading the way in that division was Juan Carlos Alfonso, who is registered with the Emirates Golf Federation off a handicap of 13. His gross score of 79 enabled him to romp home by five shots.

Meanwhile, Mohammed al Banna turned in a consistent performance to win the UAE National Monthly Tournament at the Arabian Ranches Golf Club. Playing off an 11 handicap, al Bana scored 39 points.