By Kent Gray
It’s not uncommon for footballers and cricketers to have stands in stadiums named in their honour, a lasting legacy to illustrious careers past. Golf’s equivalent, of course, is the humble fairway plaque, a perpetual reminder of the spot from which a history-defining shot was flushed.
Perhaps the most famous is the one laid on the 18th fairway at Merion commemorating Ben Hogan’s famous 1-iron to win the 1950 U.S. Open, while more recently Jamie Donaldson was on hand to plant a permanent reminder of his 2014 Ryder Cup winning wedge shot from 146 yards out on the par-4 15th hole at Gleneagles. Closer to home, the 240 yard driver Colin Montgomerie famously hit off the deck from the far corner of the dogleg on the par-5 18th on the Majlis, setting up a two-putt birdie and a one-shot victory over Ernie Els at the 1996 Dubai Desert Classic, is the stuff of now concreted legend as this video reminds us:
Fast-forward just over two decades and Dubai Golf has another plaque, this time at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
It’s in honour of MENA Tour history-maker Rayhan Thomas who, at the tender age of 17, is only just beginning his career and can never have imagined his name would be plastered in such a place.
We emphasise “such a place” because it should also be noted that the plaque is set in stone, quite literally. In fact, it’s on the exact rock from which Thomas received the ultimate member’s bounce en-route to winning his home Dubai Creek Open last September to become the first amateur winner on the developmental circuit.
— Golf Digest ME (@GolfDigestME) September 11, 2017
The shot mightn’t have been flushed or the plauqe positioned in any part of the Creek’s 18th fairway but “Rayhan’s Rock” is a classy touch from the club to its favourite son nonetheless. As it says, “It doesn’t hurt to be lucky, once in a while”.
Just 16 at the time, Thomas’ historic title charge almost ended in disaster when he pushed his approach from a fairway bunker on the 54th and final hole of regulation, only for the ball to ricochet back into play from the rocky right hand side of the Creek’s water-guarded 18th green. The teen would go on to save par from the fluffy lie and the title was his when English professional Jake Shepherd made a watery double-bogey in the first hole of overtime.
The rest, as they say, is history. From a world ranking of 1050th at the time, the Dubai-born, Indian No.1 is now a giddy 50th in the amateur world rankings and set to contest the inaugural Junior Presidents Cup in New Jersey later this month as the No.1 qualifier for Trevor Immelman’s International team.
“Having a rock named after me is a great honour and a nice gesture by the club, one that I will cherish forever,” Thomas said after recovering from a rocky (apologies) bogey-par-bogey start to open his defence of the Dubai Creek Open with a solid one-under 71 on Monday.
— Jeev Milkha Singh (@JeevMilkhaSingh) September 11, 2017
“Getting recognised and noticed for our work is something we all relish. This [support] from the Dubai Creek and the [Shaikh Maktoum Golf] foundation is certainly the best thing that could have happened to me now as I plunge into serious golf training for a fulfilling golf career.”
Officials hope ‘Rayhan’s Rock’ will serve as lasting inspiration for future junior members following in the soft-spike marks of Thomas who took to golf at the age of nine through the Junior Development Programme (JDP) at Dubai Creek.
“I am sure ‘Rayhan’s Rock’ will figure in discussions every time golfers approach the 18th green and, hopefully, will motivate youngsters to work hard on their game and realise their dreams of pursuing a career in golf,” said MENA Tour chairman Mohamed Juma Buamaim.