By Kent Gray
Given the burgeoning pool of amateur talent available to the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) team, the UAE PGA’s finest face an uphill battle if they are to avoid an unwanted hat-trick of losses in the annual Dubai Trophy matches next month. At least the PGA’s captain, Ryan Smith, is doing everything a good leader can – quietly leading by example – as the May 12-13 matches at Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek loom.
The 36-year-old South African captured the biggest win of his eight years in the region Sunday when he beat former UAE PGA chief executive Steven Munro 4&3 in the final of the tour’s matchplay championship at The Els Club.
Smith took advantage of some unlucky breaks for Munro to take the final by the scruff of the neck at 3up by the turn and never relinquished his stranglehold, all after edging David Laing 1up in an altogether more intense semifinal earlier on Sunday.
The win earned the Address Montgomery Dubai tournament co-ordinator 300 points and saw him close the gap on UAE PGA Order of Merit (OOM) leader Stefan Wears-Taylor (Al Zorah) to 80 points ahead of the season-deciding UAE PGA (Strokeplay) Championship at Arabian Ranches on April 30-May 1. It means Smith has given himself a shot at overhauling Wears-Taylor, the UAE PGA Championship’s defending champion, for the circuit’s year-long title.
“It’s was a big win, a great day and now we’ve got the two-day [36-hole] tour championship next week so hopefully I might be able to do the double,” said Smith.
“That would be great and I’m captaining the Dubai Trophy team so it’s quite nice to go there in some form. It’s going to be tough again with all those youngsters coming through… [including runaway EGF OOM leader] Josh Hill…amazing!”
Smith didn’t know much about Hill when they met him in a foursomes match at last year’s Dubai Trophy. But the now 14-year-old teen’s magical run of form, including course records at Trump and The Track Meydan Golf and a runaway victory in the Faldo Series Middle East Championship, has turned Hill into the hottest golfer in the land.
“I remember playing him and Arjun [Gupta] in a foursomes match and thinking we can’t get beaten by two 12 year olds. Luckily we won but the juniors are just incredible now, fearless.”
Smith thought his matchplay run was over with Laing playing nicely in their semifinal as he ‘scrapped for pars”. But a couple of late birdies got Smith to the 18th all square and he pounced when Laing found a tough desert lie on the right of the closing hole and proceeded to thin his approach through the back, and then thin his chip shot.
Munro progressed to the final with a 2&1 victory of Mike Bolt (Trump Dubai).
Meanwhile, Shane Peacock recently claimed his his maiden UAE PGA victory at Jumeirah Golf Estates with a fine score of 71.