Three local golfers are to get the chance of a lifetime to compete alongside golf’s next generation of superstars after coming out on top in the hotly anticipated Golden Ball Series ahead of this month’s Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final taking place at Al Hamra Golf Club from October 31 to November 3.
The exciting initiative saw over 800 golfers competing in qualifying events across the UAE with the winner of each gaining a place in the Golden Ball Grand Final which took place on Saturday on the pristine championship-ready course at Al Hamra that will welcome the European Challenge Tour’s top 45 players in just over two weeks time.
Al Ain Golf Club’s James Heath came out on top in the keenly contested strokeplay event with an impressive net 2-under 70 while Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club’s Gregory Mathieu took second place with 1-under by virtue of a better back nine than Hanif Ibrahim of Tower Links, who also returned a net 1-underscore despite a forgettable 10 on the 18th!
The ‘Golden Trio’ will now form a team and be joined by one of the Challenge Tour’s leading professionals to compete in the pro-am ahead of the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final. The prestigious event is the Challenge Tour’s season-ending showcase which will culminate in the top 15 players on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah Rankings being promoted to play on next season’s European Tour.
“It’s a really nice course, in great condition and super challenging,” said winner Heath of the Peter Harradine-designed layout. “I play at Al Ain Golf Club so come to a different course in the UAE and represent my club has been a real honor. To win is a bit of good luck!
“It’s daunting to think that we will be playing with the Challenge Tour guys in a couple of weeks. I got nervous enough coming here for the Golden Ball Grand Final. But it’s going to be a real honor to play alongside them and an experience I’m looking forward to.”
Mathieu said: “I’ve played golf for many years but only recently started playing in events so I’m really pleased to win. It’s a dream come true to play with the pros of the Challenge Tour. It’s a real blessing as when you play with a pro you learn a lot and I can’t wait to be there.”
Ibrahim added: “I’m really happy to win one of the Pro-Am places. It’s mixed emotions as I came up to the 18th tee around six under par net but finished with a 10 on that hole which spoiled my scorecard but I’m thrilled to get through!”
The Challenge Tour’s tagline is ‘Where Heroes Are Made’ and six of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup team, who beat the USA 17 ½ – 10 ½ in Paris last month, along with their victorious captain, started their careers there. Thomas Bjorn, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Thorbjørn Olesen, Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton were all household names even before their heroics at Le Golf National and it was on the Challenge Tour that they fine-tuned their considerable skills before making an assault on golf’s top prizes on the European Tour.
It is among the latest breed of the game’s up and coming stars that the Golden Ball Grand Final winners will have the chance compete on October 29th.
Haitham Mattar, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority commented:
“It’s been another sensational year for our Golden Ball Series and we are delighted that everyone has enjoyed a day of thrilling golf at the Golden Ball Grand Final at the beautiful Al Hamra Golf Club. We send our congratulations to the three winners on securing their spot in the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final Pro-Am and wish them all the best in what promises to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for them alongside the next generation of golfing stars.
“We would like to send out our thanks to Al Hamra Golf Club and to the clubs and competitors across the UAE for making this unique competition so special and we look forward to hosting the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final at the end of this month.”
The Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final takes place at Al Hamra Golf Club from Wednesday, October 31 to Saturday 1. Entry for spectators is free of charge.