Daniel Owen seized the early momentum in the Abu Dhabi Golf Citizen Open, the first event on the MENA Golf Tour, when he fired a bogey-free 68 to establish a new course record at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club on Monday.
On a hot and humid day, the young Bahrain-based Englishman steadied his nerve with an early birdie on the par-5 second to set the tone for a flawless round, studded with four birdies, including three on the front nine.
The 22-year-old prodigy, who leads by one shot over his nearest challengers Younes El Hassani of Morocco, Zane Scotland of England and Pakistan’s Shafiq Masih going into the second and penultimate round, attributed his early success to valuable tips from his sports psychologist and exposure to some highly-competitive events in England, including the English Amateur Championship.
“My heart was in my mouth, standing on the first tee, but lessons in breathing exercises from my psychologist came handy,” said Owen, who missed the cut at English Amateur Championship with rounds of 74 and 79, but admitted it mentally prepared him for this event.
“Frankly, it (competing on the MENA Tour) was a big occasion for me, but that birdie on the second kind of got me going. At the end of the day, I am very pleased with my efforts. I wouldn’t have regretted even a level par score,” said Owen, who is ready to turn pro in December.
“If I can keep the momentum rolling all the way through, you never know what can happen. At the moment, I am not thinking that far,” said Owen after eclipsing the previous course record of 69.
Experienced El Hassani also felt it was a good day in the office. “I played very well – four birdies and one bogey and that’s not too bad. I hit a lot of greens and could have walked away with a bogey-free round, but missed a one-yard putt on the par-3 third.
“I would like to thank organizers of the MENA Tour for giving us an opportunity to compete at this level. We have played in Europe, but here you get that homely feeling. And that’s why the Tour is so special for us Arab players,” he said.
Pakistan’s Masih said the course was playing really well in the morning. “I could have done even better, but didn’t read the greens properly and missed two eagle putts, one each on the 11th and 15th.
“The good thing is that I am striking the ball and that’s a big confidence boost,” said Masih, who is supported by Ibadat Trust.
Aadil Jehangir of Pakistan and Yasin Ali both shot an identical 70 to follow the leaders in that order while Nabil Abdul of Australia, Dale Marmion of England and UAE-based Joel Neale, Abdel Kader El Hali (Morocco) Geoff Lound (UAE) and Brian Njoroge (Kenya) headed the chasing pack at one-under-par 71.
Among the notables, Asian Tour veteran Ross Bain stayed in contention with a solid level-par round of 72 along with Anil Shah (Kenya), Ross Canavan (Thailand) and Gary Birch Jr. (Germany).
68 – Daniel Owen (AM-Bahrain)
69 – Shafiq Masih (Pakistan), Younes El Hassani (Morocco), Zane Scotland (England)
70 – Aadil Jehangir (Pakistan), Yasin Ali (UAE)
71 – Nabil Abdul (Australia), Dale Marmion (UAE), Joel Neale (UAE), Abdel Kader El Hali (Morocco), Geoff Lound (UAE), Brian Njoroge (Kenya)
72 – Ross Bain (Scotland), Anil Shah (Kenya), Ross Canavan (Thailand), Gary Birch Jr. (Germany) and Danyaal Jehangir (Pakistan).
73 – Andy Andrews (UAE), Matloob Ahmed (Pakistan), Sean McNamara (Thailand), George Perry (US), Paul Wilson (UAE) and Chris Chamberlain (England).