Local favourite Eoin Cunniffe triumphed in a play-off to win the Faldo Series Middle East Championship at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club (AESGC) in Abu Dhabi.
The 16-year-old Al Ain resident will join Sir Nick Faldo at the season-ending Grand Final, along with players from Dubai and Qatar.
“I was nervous during the last hole and the play-off so I’m proud of the way I held some crucial putts to win,” said a delighted Cunniffe. “Having home support made a big difference and now I can’t wait to meet Nick Faldo and play in the Grand Final.”
Cunniffe of Ireland finished on level par after 36 holes on his home course before winning the first extra hole against 13-year-old Jakub Hrinda of Slovakia. Both players secured their age category to qualify for the seventeenth Grand Final.
Qatar resident Hrinda will be joined at the World Amateur Golf Ranking event by his 14-year-old sister, Laila Hrindova who claimed the girls’ division. China’s Zi-Hao Su, who lives in Dubai, won the Boys’ Under-21s to take the other qualifying spot.
Backed by Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the fourth Faldo Series Middle East Championship was the first in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi following a new three-year agreement with AESGC. Local school-children from the city of Al Ain also attended the tournament for a free golf clinic, part of a drive to grow the game at the grass-roots level.
Supported by The R&A, ISPS Handa and the European Tour, the 2013 Faldo Series Europe schedule features a record 20 tournaments in 14 countries including six in England plus others in Ireland, Abu Dhabi, Chile, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Austria, Wales, Brazil, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia and Greece.
Established in 1996, 40 Faldo Series tournaments now take place in 30 countries worldwide with more than 7,000 golfers participating each year. Past winners include Major Champions Rory McIlroy and Yani Tseng.
In September 2013, Faldo will begin taking students at a full-time residential academy for education and golf development in America. The first ever Faldo Series Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona is also home to the Faldo Series USA and marks the next significant step in the programme’s history.
Leading final scores: Boys’ Under-21: 150 – Zi-Hao Su (CHN) 77-73; 160 – Ruairidh Mitchell (ENG) 80-80. Boys’ Under-18: 142 – Eoin Cunniffe (IRL) 70-72; 152 – Nooh Esbai (BAH) 73-79. Boys’ Under-16: 142 – Jakub Hrinda (SK) 72-70; 149 – Rayhan Thomas (IND) 78-71. Girls’ Under-21: 147 – Laila Hrindova (SK) 74-73; 150 – Alison Muirhead (SCO) 75-75.