By Kent Gray
The need for sun protection was the only thing to catch Rayhan Thomas off guard as he rounded out his preparation for the 122nd British Amateur Championship in an unusually balmy 28 degrees at Royal St Georges’ in Sandwich on Sunday.
“Today was quite warm actually, probably needed the sun screen,” Thomas joked on the eve of ‘The Amateur’ being co-hosted by neighbouring Prince’s Golf Club.
The early English summer mercury mightn’t have threatened the 50+ degrees (Celsius) recorded back at home in Dubai but it clearly helped the 17-year-old Indian No.1 feel right at home on the famed Kent coast links land.
Thomas will take a fun 48-hour, two round reconnaissance mission into his first British Amateur where he tees it up at 9.39am (12.39pm UAE time) alongside Daniel O’Loughlin (England) and Stephen Behr (USA) in Monday’s opening round at Prince’s. He’ll then have to negotiate an afternoon start (2.15pm UK time/5.15pm UAE time) at St Georges’ Tuesday before the 228 strong field is whittled down to 64 qualifiers for the matchplay knockout rounds at St Georges’ from Wednesday.
Thomas played both courses in practice and liked the challenging conditions he encountered, hardly surprising given his love of links golf.
“They’re fantastic courses, really playing like true links,” Thomas told Golf Digest Middle East.
“It’s firm, it’s brown, and sometimes you have to bounce the ball 40 yards short of the green with like mid to long irons and run it up
“I’ve just really enjoyed all the creative shots you can play. You can hit a lot of bump and runs, putt it from 40 yards off the green, hit balls into slopes and try to run it down, release it to the pin. It’s been fun trying to figure out that strategic golf and playing it that way.”
Thomas has enlisted an experienced local bagman to help his tilt at arguably the world’s most coveted amateur title which counts Bobby Jones (1930), Masters champion Sergio Garcia (1998), fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal (1984) and Italian star Matteo Manaserro (2009) among its former champions.
“I have a really good caddy this week who knows Royal St Georges’ like the back of his hand, he’s a local whose been caddying for 38 years so, yeah, looking forward to it,” said Thomas who has proven UK pedigree having won the 2016 Scottish Boys’ Strokeplay Championship.
“I think to make the matchplay, I just need to play it solid, take it shot by shot and just don’t make too many silly mistakes because it is going to be tough out there.
“The courses are tough with how firm they are playing So I just need to keep it steady, be patient and come out with a good score. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, I can’t wait.”