Joshua White produced a great turnaround coming down the home stretch to complete a thrilling wire-to-wire victory in the Royal D’Anfa Open, the opening event on the MENA Golf Tour this season.
Starting the day one shot in front, the Englishman slipped four behind with four holes to play, but held his nerve when it mattered most to beat an ominously charging Faycal Serghini by a single shot for his first career win since turning professional last year.
Amid high drama and sharp swings of fortune, White birdied the 15th while Seghini dropped a shot, to reduce the margin to two and then eagled the 16th to draw level with the leading Moroccan pro, who then squandered his last chance when he bogeyed the 17th.
Leading by one going into the final hole, White closed with a routine par for a 67 to reach 12-under for the tournament but not before Serghini narrowly missed the birdie putt, he needed to force a playoff.
“I don’t have the words to describe how delighted I feel at the moment,” said White after receiving the winner’s trophy and a cheque for $9,000 from Mustapha Zine of the Royal Morocco Golf Federation, and Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour.
“It was a good day out there. I played a solid golf,” he said. “Even when I was four shots down, the thinking was to hang in there. I held my nerve coming down the stretch and that made the difference,” said the 23-year-old Englishman from London.
“The victory has a special feeling after what happened in Oman in last year,” said White, who lost in a playoff that lasted three holes, to Monaco’s Sandro Piaget. “I hope this win can kick-start the season,” said the Englishman, who thanked his coach Gary Torbett and his parents for their support.
Like the true sportsman that he is, White paid tribute to the fighting qualities of Serghini. “He is a very nice guy and played unbelievable golf this week,” he said.
Morocco’s Serghini was again left ruing missed putts at crucial moments. “This is the third time in the last four or five that I have missed out on sealing a victory. I lost in a playoff in Turkey and then in Al Ain (the MENA Golf Tour ChampionshIp) and here again.
“I am knocking on the door repeatedly. Hopefully, my time will come soon. Let’s be honest, I have no hard feelings. I think Joshua played some great golf in the last four holes and deserved to win,” said Serghini, who, however, had the consolation of winning the Shaikh Maktoum Golf Foundation Award for being best Arab golfer in the field, a prize which carries $1,500 besides winning the $6,000 for finishing second overall.
South Africa’s Tyler Hogarty closed with a 68 to finish solo third on 8-under 208, a good two shots ahead of defending champion, Stephen Dodd with Alessandro Tadini of Italy and England’s James Housby sharing fifth on five-under 211.
The MENA Golf Tour moves to the Moroccan capital of Rabat next week.
PIC CAPTION: Joshua White with Mustapha Zine of the Royal Morocco Golf Federation and Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Golf Tour, after receiving the winner’s trophy