Rayhan Thomas poses for the traditional Swilken Bridge shot with caddy Alan MacKenzie during a practice loop of the Old Course at St Andrews.
By Kent Gray
Dubai-domiciled Indian international Rayhan Thomas has made an impressive – albeit topsy-turvy – start to his European summer campaign, firing himself into early contention at the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy in Scotland.
The 18-year-old world amateur No. 28 signed for a two-under 69 on the New Course at the home of golf on Friday to share seventh place nearing the completion of the first round of the 72-hole strokeplay event.
Thomas was just two shots off the clubhouse lead set by England’s Olly Huggins after the Frilford Heath G.C. player also took advantage of the relatively benign conditions to card a four-under 67. Reigning MENA Tour amateur champion Todd Clements (ENG) opened with a 73.
Things could have been so much better for Thomas with the MENA Tour history-maker mixing an eagle and four birdies with four bogeys in his opening round.
“I hit the ball solid, just missed a couple of putts on the back nine but the worst I could have shot was two under today so I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Thomas told GolfDigestME.com ahead of Saturday’s second round on the famed Old Course.
“I think the Old Course is a little tougher than the New Course but there are birdie opportunities, there’s a score out there so I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
Since its inception in 1989, the St Andrews Links Trophy has attracted the world’s leading amateurs, many of whom have gone on to enjoy success on the PGA and European Tours, notably Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy.
It is Thomas’ first time playing St Andrews and he’s clearly savouring the scared atmosphere plus the lofty position in the 144-strong field made up of scratch handicappers or better.
“It’s playing very fiery and very fast so it’s a new challenge but I love links golf, love St Andrews so it’s a good start. The preps gone well, I’ve been working on my bump and run, trying to keep everything low but the whether has actually been pretty good this week and today was really calm with just light winds.
“Light winds for St Andrews is a windy day in Dubai but it was a good day today.”
Thomas’ UK summer will also see him contest the 123rd Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links from June 18-23. He cruelly missed the cut for the matchplay phase of the British amateur by a stroke last year but it did spur him to a historic semifinal showing at the 70th U.S. Junior Amateur.