Luke Joy mixed six birdies and the eagle with four bogeys on a windy opening day at Ayla G.C.
By Kent Gray
The good times continue to roll for English Amateur champion Todd Clements while there was finally some cheer for Luke Joy as the MENA Tour made its much anticipated bow in Jordan on Thursday.
Clements and Joy overcame testing winds and tricky greens to sign for four-under-par 69s and a share of the first round lead at the inaugural Jordan’s Ayla Golf Championship.
Ten-time MENA Tour winner Zane Scotland continued his recent form revival with a 70 that left him alone on third, a shot clear of fellow Englishman Lee Corfield. MENA Tour patron Darren Clarke, meanwhile, let a solid start – two birdies in his first three holes – slip with two bogeys and as many double bogeys in a three-over 76 to be T-15.
Joy has endured a nightmarish second half of 2017 thus far after being felled by a bout of malaria picked up during the Pro-Am circuit’s South African swing. He wasn’t at his best during the KLM Open, a rare European Tour start earned after he finished second in the MENA Tour’s 2016 order of merit, and was even more frustrated at failing to advance from the first stage of European Tour Q-School in Austria the following week. The barren spell spilled over at last week’s Golf Citizen Abu Dhabi Open when he failed to make the 36-hole cut after successive 74s.
But the Yas Links-attached pro is still right in this year’s OOM race in fifth place and suddenly on track for a third MENA Tour title after a round highlighted buy a holed gap wedge for an eagle two on the 3rd.
“Yeah, it’s been a tough summer with getting back from the Malaria, the recovery has taken longer than expected but you have to deal with these things the best way you can and stay positive,” Joy told Golf Digest Middle East after mixing six birdies and the eagle with four bogeys. “I holed some nice putts and also left a few [out there], but overall, it was a pretty good round.
“The course is just awesome and the wind makes it even more challenging. The greens are quite tricky and you are going to miss some, but you have to stay patient. You also need a bit of luck if you aim to score well here. I will just enjoy the rest of the week and see what happens at the end.”
After runner-up finishes in two of his last three starts, Clements is knocking ever louder for his maiden MENA Tour title.
The 21-year-old amateur started with three successive birdies – his only blemish was a bogey on the 8th – and is an impressive 29-under in his last 10 MENA Tour rounds.
“I got off to a nice start and managed to keep the momentum going. I am enjoying my golf and very happy with my efforts. We still have two more rounds to go and we will see how things pan out,” said Clements, who won the English Amateur Championship at The Berkshire in August.
Elsewhere, Jordanian 13-year-old Shergo Al Kurdi carded an opening 78 in the company of Clarke, to shared 25th place, a stroke behind Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla. The UAE national team due of Ahmed Skaik (80) and Ahmed Al Musharrekh (81) have much work to do to make the 36-hole cut.