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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Rayhan Thomas: 'The prizes available for the Asia-Pacific – the Open, the Masters – are huge'

The Dubai-based amateur has lofty aspirations heading into Thursday’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand

From left: Yu Chun-an of Chinese Taipei, Nick Voke of New Zealand and Rayhan Thomas, the Dubai-based amateur representing India, stand for a photograph ahead of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Royal Wellington Golf Club, Wellington, New Zealand. David Paul Morris / AAC
From left: Yu Chun-an of Chinese Taipei, Nick Voke of New Zealand and Rayhan Thomas, the Dubai-based amateur representing India, stand for a photograph ahead of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Royal Wellington Golf Club, Wellington, New Zealand. David Paul Morris / AAC

With entry into golf’s most high-profile tournaments on offer, Rayhan Thomas has lofty aspirations heading into Thursday’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in New Zealand.

The Dubai-based teenager, 17, competes in the event in Wellington this week seeking to continue his rise through the amateur game. Taking place at Royal Wellington Golf Club, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) ranks as one of the most illustrious on the non-professional circuit and will feature 116 players from around the world.

Organised by the R&A, the Masters tournament and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the tournament is the region’s standout amateur event. The winner come Sunday will not only clinch the trophy, but also qualify for next year’s Masters and British Open – two of professional golf’s four major championships. The runner-up spot, meanwhile, will secure a place in The Open Qualifying Series for the British Open.

It is no surprise then that Thomas, who now sits at No 26 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, cannot wait to get started.

“The prizes available for the Asia-Pacific – the Open, the Masters – are huge events and great rewards, something we all try to get into as amateurs,” he said. “To get into a major championship as an amateur is huge. To represent your country at any major is even bigger.

“Always, trying to win an event with this strong a field is awesome, but with these prizes it gives you a little more drive. But I’ll just stick to the same goal of trying to win, stick to my game plan and I’m sure I can get the job done.”

The AAC is the next major mark on a memorable year for Thomas. After last year becoming the first amateur to win on the Mena Tour, he made the cut at January’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour and finished third in July’s US Junior Amateur – another prominent amateur event.

Dubai-based amateur Rayhan Thomas, left, representing India, left and Nick Voke of New Zealand stand for a photograph ahead of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Royal Wellington Golf Club, Wellington, New Zealand. David Paul Morris / AAC
Dubai-based amateur Rayhan Thomas, left, representing India, left and Nick Voke of New Zealand stand for a photograph ahead of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at Royal Wellington Golf Club, Wellington, New Zealand. David Paul Morris / AAC

Last month, he carded nine successive birdies at the Mena Tour's Dubai Creek Open, equalling the world record for an Official World Golf Ranking event. Thomas participated then in the inaugural Junior Presidents Cup, forming part of Trevor Immelman’s International team that ultimately lost out to the United States.

However, despite the 14-10 reverse, Thomas says the time spent in New Jersey was something he will never forget.

“I learned a lot of little tidbits and bits and pieces from all the pros and everybody around me,” he said. “So I think that’ll help me quite a bit. Just how to manage my game and I have been actually thinking about my technique a little bit, some short-game stuff, trying to free that up a little bit.

“But, as a whole, the experience of the President’s Cup was monumental for me. It was a huge learning curve and just a lot of fun to be in that team atmosphere. It was great.

“The highlight for me was the fourball game, which was the one game I halved, when we pulled back. It felt like a win for us because we were three down after 11 and were able to get the half. So that was awesome.”

Although born in Dubai, Thomas will be representing India in Wellington, while at 26th in the world, he is the third highest-ranked player in the field. The UAE is represented, though, with Ahmed Sakik and Mohammed Al Hajeri also competing.

“Really looking forward to this week," Thomas said. “Game is feeling in really good shape and so I can’t wait. The course is in superb shape. It’s a beautiful-looking golf course, which is scoreable if the wind’s down. But Wellington is known for it’s winds, so I expect it to get up.”